Sen. Dan Sullivan

Sen. Dan Sullivan speaks to a crowd during Crab Fest 2019.

KODIAK — Continuing his efforts to protect the Alaskan fishing industry from the impacts of the Trump Administration’s trade war with China, US Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) sent a letter to US Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer on Thursday, requesting the removal of a number of species of fish from the list of imported goods due to be hit by tariffs.

Sullivan has long been critical of the fact that import tariffs were initially placed on seafood products that were originally fished and processed in Alaska. In 2018, Sullivan was a key player in having Alaska salmon removed from the list. 

On May 10, amid turbulent trade negotiations with China, the Trump Administration announced an increase in tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of products. It also said it would place tariffs on an additional $300 billion of products. This includes a number of seafood products that are fished in Alaska, including salmon, some species of rockfish and flatfish, pollock and Pacific cod.

During an interview with the Kodiak Daily Mirror and KMXT on Friday, Sullivan provided a copy of the letter he sent to Lighthizer, saying that he hoped the administration wouldn’t “make the same mistake again.”

Sullivan said that he had spoken with Lighthizer earlier in the week and had asked him to look at removing the tariffs from a broader category of fish beyond just salmon.

“He was very engaged. My office and his office have been working this non-stop for the last couple of weeks,” Sullivan said. “Just to reiterate the point, we sent this letter to him yesterday, which has a lot of details.”

The letter, which was also signed by US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and US Congressman Don Young (R-AK), begins by expressing support for the ongoing trade negotiations with China, before becoming more critical.

“Unfortunately, recent decisions by the administration to increase duties from 10 to 25 percent on $200 billion and introduce new tariffs of 25 percent on an additional $300 billion of Chinese imports is deeply troubling, because they continue to potentially negatively impact the very Americans the administration is trying to help,” the letter states. 

The letter goes on to point out that the American seafood included on the tariff list constitutes hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products.

“Alaskan seafood — including wild Alaska salmon, Pacific cod, and certain flatfish species - is sustainably harvested from Alaskan waters by hardworking American fishermen on U.S. flagged vessels and sent to domestic processing lines in Alaska to be headed, gutted and frozen,” the letter states. “Due to a shortage of American labor, significant quantities are then shipped to China, where they are deboned and filleted in order to be cost-competitive in a globalized seafood market. This reprocessed fish is then imported by American companies and sold back to American consumers and customers around the world.”

The letter explained that the May 10 announcement increasing the tariffs is “creating tremendous uncertainty” for the industry. Via the letter, the Alaska Delegation requested for the removal of a number of specific categories of fish: salmon; Pacific cod; flatfish and rockfish species; Alaskan pollock.

“We support your overall hard work in addressing the unlevel playing field between the United States and China that threatens the economic security of American workers and families; however you risk losing critical congressional support if your actions end up having the result of targeting and harming some of the very Americans we know you want to help-like hard working Alaskan fisherman who harvest a world class product from our well-managed fisheries,” the letter concludes.

During the interview, Sullivan said that he hoped the letter would encourage the Administration to not repeat the “inadvertent shooting of ourselves in the foot.”

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