Executive Intelligence Review

FROM EIR DAILY ALERT


Alaska Governor To Lead Trade Trip to China, as Energy Department Okays Critical Gas Pipeline

March 28, 2018 (EIRNS)—Alaska Gov. Bill Walker will lead a trade mission to China in May, which he first proposed in his January State of the State message. The visit has now taken on special significance, as exemplifying the way many U.S. states and localities seek beneficial trade and investment with China, while the sparks fly in Washington against China.

Walker personally hosted President Xi Jinping last April in Anchorage, when Xi stopped on his way back to China from his Florida meeting with President Trump. In November, 2017, Walker was the only governor in the delegation accompanying President Trump for his November state visit-plus in Beijing. Walker witnessed, along with Xi and Trump, the signing of the $43 billion China investment and purchase deal for an 800-mile Alaska gas pipeline, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) import commitments, among the principals of four entities: the state-sponsored Alaska Gasline Development Corp. (AGDC), the China Investment Corp., Bank of China, and China Petrochemical Corp. (Sinopec Group), the mega oil and gas firm.

This month, the new Alaska pipeline project got an important approval from U.S. Federal authorities, which had originally authorized it and LNG foreign sales in 2015. On March 13, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced it is now proceeding on the timeline of advance work, to allow the Alaska LNG Project construction to start in early 2020, and be on a track for completion by 2024 or 2025. The FERC announcement was hailed by everyone from Alaska’s U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, to the AFL-CIO, now developing workforce plans. It will “turbocharge” the Alaska economy, said AGDC President Keith Meyer, in a press release.

In addition to this project, China figures prominently in Alaska’s economic wellbeing overall. This was stressed in a March 27 article in the state capital’s online daily, Juneau Empire, titled, “Alaska-China Trade Is Something To Value,” co-authored by Doug Griffin, Executive Director of the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference, and Tom Dillion, Executive Director of the Kenai Economic Development District. They stress, “China’s longstanding consumption of Alaska products has been creating benefits across the state for years, and the upcoming trade mission to China is a clear opportunity for us to strengthen this bond and continue to grow our economy.”

The article gives specifics on the Alaska-China economic relations: In 2017, China imported over $355.8 million worth of metal ores from Alaska, and millions worth of forest products. China bought over $796 million of Alaska seafood in 2017. China is the state’s biggest seafood customer, and its imports of Alaskan products in 2017 were 16% above 2016. China’s tourist visits to Alaska are important, and have grown since Xi’s visit to the state last April.

Overall,

“Alaska exported $4.93 billion of goods in 2017, with over $1.32 billion going to China. China has been Alaska’s largest export partner for the last seven years.... Gov. Bill Walker’s trade mission to China presents an opportunity to further engage with this economic powerhouse.”

The authors explicitly dissociate from the anti-China actions in Washington, writing:

“Regardless of what happens at the federal level, the opportunities for Alaska and Asia to partner together are clear, providing we take our shot with the can-do optimism our state is built on.... Finally, while the Alaska-China relationship did not start with the Alaska LNG project, it is a huge step forward we need to carefully encourage.”

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