China is Alaska's No. 1 trade partner, say state officials

Published: May. 31, 2018 at 12:24 PM AKDT
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Data is sourced from the


The figures displayed in this data set are rounded to the nearest million. Meanwhile, the percent change amounts – between 2016 to 2017 values – are calculated using the full, unrounded numbers. Unrounded numbers can be viewed at




indicates a percent change greater than 500, from 2016 to 2017.

Check out the first and second tabs of the interactive data visualization, above, to:

• Compare the rankings of total U.S.


from Alaska – the origin of movement – among its Top 25 global trade partners.

• Compare the rankings of total U.S.


to Alaska – the final destination – among its Top 25 global trade partners.

• Rankings can be sorted using the

Filter Countries by Rank

tool in red, which is located near the bottom right-hand corner of both tabs.

Check out the third tab of the interactive data visualization, above, to:

• Compare Alaska's top imported and exported goods, based on the 2017 dollar value.


China is Alaska's top trade partner. In 2017, Alaska exported $1.32 billion in goods to the country, or about 26 percent of Alaska's total exports to the world market valuing $4.93 billion.

"In the last number of years, China has been of growing importance. They've been our number one trade partner for the last seven years," Shelley James, director of International Trade for the State of Alaska, said in an interview Thursday.

She'd just arrived from China the night before, where officials representing Alaska – including Governor Bill Walker and a variety of business interests – are on a trade mission.

Exported commodities include timber, lead and gold mineral ores, and petroleum by products. But seafood is by far the biggest market.

"Seafood comprised almost 60 percent of that [$1.32 billion], so almost $800 million worth of Alaska Seafood [is] going to China. That's probably in the realm every year of 800 to 900 million pounds," said Nicole Kimball, vice president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association.

Sockeye salmon tops demand. But other species are also desirable.

"Wild Alaska pollock, pacific cod, sable fish, king crab, flat fish - like rock sole, yellow fin sole. Sometimes pollock and herring roe – a whole variety of product is going to China," Kimball listed.

There is also value in bringing people to Alaska. Chinese tourists tend to stay longer and spend more than tourists from other countries, said Sarah Leonard with the Alaska Travel Industry Association.

Travel Fairbanks and Travel Anchorage are among the partner groups who joined the trade mission, she said. Chinese travelers represent about 3 percent of the tourism market. But more are coming each year, and they tend to travel in the off season. This offers a boost, when Alaskans, who rely on tourism, usually experience some lag.

"Alaska is just scratching the surface of the Chinese market, and looking for opportunities to create more revenue and opportunities for Alaska businesses," Leonard said.

Kimball said the seafood industry is also watching a growth trend: China's growing middle class, which has an increasing appetite for fresh fish.

Home grown, wild, healthy food, plus welcoming adventurous travelers to the state, are just two of the ways Alaska is looking to deepen its already valuable relationship with China.