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China-US relations

Alaska plans trade mission to China, amid strained Sino-US ties

Two sides discussing a gas pipeline project in the US state

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 11:26am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 11:10pm

Alaskan Governor Bill Walker on Monday announced details of a spring trade mission to China that aims to build on existing relationships between the state and the Asian country.

The announcement comes amid mounting trade tensions between the US and China. The trip, which Walker first mentioned in his state-of-the-state speech in January, is schedule for May.

China has been a top export market for Alaskan goods and the state has been working to strengthen ties with the country as it pursues potential partnerships for a natural gas line project. Walker, an independent, played host to China’s president in Anchorage in April.

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In November, Walker and Keith Meyer, president of the state-sponsored Alaska Gasline Development Corp, signed an agreement with leaders of China Investment Corp, Bank of China and Sinopec, a major oil and gas company.

The agreement calls for the parties to explore the feasibility of investing in the gas project, which proposes to move gas from Alaska’s North Slope to Asian markets and pursue terms to advance the project, including the potential for Sinopec to be involved in engineering, construction and other aspects. The agreement does not obligate any party.

Meyer downplayed the trade tensions between the US and China and the pushback against China by US President Donald Trump.

“Really, the pushback is a message to buy more stuff from the United States. And, again, that is where I think Alaska has the stuff that China wants,” Meyer said in Anchorage on Monday. “So I think the message is quite harmonious with our mission.”

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Walker’s office said the governor, his international trade director and Alaska’s commerce commissioner would travel with business representatives. The state plans a competitive application process for participants, who must pay their way.

Alaskan Senate majority leader Peter Micciche, a Republican, said lawmakers needed a lot more information about the gas project before deciding whether they could support it.