Diary

General Information Package -- Governor Palin's Foreign Policy Experience -- $3.6 Billion in Exports

Following is an annotated press release from Governor Palin regarding trade in Alaska:

[On March 26, 2009, Alaska] Governor Sarah Palin … announced another strong year for Alaska’s trade performance. The value of the state’s exports reached $3.6 billion in 2008, the fourth-best year ever for exports (Exports, 2009, ¶1).

Jobs and Economic Benefits

“Alaskans benefit from export activity. Given what is happening in economies around the world, it’s clear that Alaska’s economy remains strong and our resources are still highly valued,” said Governor Palin (Exports, 2009, ¶2).

The governor noted Alaska’s international activity also includes more than just export of natural resources. International interest in Alaska creates jobs across the state. In addition to traditional export of goods and services, there are Alaskans working in the visitor industry, at the state’s international ports and airports, and in education and language programs (Exports, 2009, ¶3).

The $3.6 billion in Alaska exports represents an 11 percent decline from the previous year. World commodity prices and demand are beyond any state’s control. The decrease in the value of the Alaska’s 2008 exports comes as prices for key resources fluctuated worldwide (Exports, 2009, ¶4).

Gold, Zinc, Lead, and Copper

The value of Alaska’s gold exports rose on smaller export volume, to $143 million. Zinc prices, which have driven the value of Alaska’s total exports to the highest levels ever in the past two years, declined during 2008. The total value of zinc, lead and copper ore exports was $691 million (Exports, 2009, ¶5).

Export Markets

Japan remains Alaska’s top export market at $1.1 billion, followed by China at $733 million, Canada at $370 million, Korea at $366 million, Germany at $208 million, and Switzerland at $148 million (Exports, 2009, ¶5).

Seafood Exports

In 2008, the value of Alaska’s annual seafood exports was $1.8 billion, the fourth-highest year ever and a 9.1 percent decrease from the previous year. Alaska exported $553 million to Japan, the state’s largest seafood export market, $404 million to China, $226 million to Korea, $168 million to Germany, and $449 million to other markets around the world (Exports, 2009, ¶6).

“Wild Alaskan seafood is the cleanest, healthiest, tastiest protein on earth, and more people are discovering it everyday. We’re fortunate to have the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute pushing hard for our wonderful seafood in key international markets,” said Governor Palin. “We want to increase the value of our state’s sustainable fisheries in every way possible” (Exports, 2009, ¶7)

In 1999, Alaska seafood exports to Europe accounted for less than 5 percent of the total seafood exports. In 2008, European markets continued their upward trend in importance to the Alaska seafood industry and accounted for 24.7 percent of the value of Alaska’s seafood exports. The state’s 2008 energy exports of $501 million included $322 million of Liquefied Natural Gas to Japan. The export of LNG to Japan has occurred on a regular basis since 1969. In 2008, the operators of the LNG plant on the Kenai Peninsula received a two-year extension of the federal export license through 2011. Refined petroleum product exports from Alaska in 2008 totaled $156 million to China, Canada, and Japan. The value of the state’s coal exports grew in 2008 to $23 million of sales to Pacific Rim countries (Exports, 2009, ¶8).

Gold, Zinc, and Lead Prices and Markets

The rising price of gold brought the value of Alaska’s 2008 export of gold to $143 million from $131 million in 2007. Switzerland is the major market for Alaska’s gold exports (Exports, 2009, ¶9).

High world-market prices increased the value of Alaska’s zinc and lead ore exports in 2006 and 2007, more than tripling the value of those exports in less than three years. The 2008 drop in zinc prices has resulted in mineral exports valued at $691 million compared to $1.3 billion in 2007 on slightly smaller volume. Red Dog Mine, in northwest Alaska, is the world’s largest zinc mine. Canada was Alaska’s largest ore market in 2008 followed by Japan, China, Korea, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Spain, and Mexico (Exports, 2009, ¶10).

Forest Products

The value of Alaska’s 2008 export of forest products was $83 million, down 3.23 percent, primarily to Japan, Korea and China. The source of the Alaska export numbers is the U.S. Census Bureau. The numbers do not reflect Alaska resources first transported to and warehoused in other U.S. states before export. For more information, contact trade specialist Patricia Eckert at (907) 269-7450 (Exports, 2009, ¶1).

Commentary

Alaska sits at the midpoint between the continental United States and the Pacific Rim. This strategic location (which was why we bought it from Russia in the first instance) combined with the state’s wealth of natural resources make it an important and principal trading port. Unlike most landlocked states in the conterminous 48, Alaska’s governor must regularly meet with foreign diplomats, consuls general, and others involved with international trade. The state’s borders with Canada and Russia (Alaska is the only state that borders two separate countries) also place its Governor in a position of dealing with international issues on a regular basis.

Governor Palin, thus is acquiring foreign policy experience that most of the country’s governors do not have (save for those in border states). Detractors can point to the Tina Fey joke about “seeing Russia from my house” (You can actually WALK to Russia from the outermost Aleutian island in the winter, when the Bering Strait freezes over) all they want, but they cannot deny that Governor Palin has foreign policy experience. Her state exports over $3.6 billion in products this year — and that’s with an 11% decline as noted above — still impressive numbers by any measure. Her pipeline to Canada and the 48 conterminous states is an international project.

Governor Palin knows much more about foreign policy and trade than any of her detractors could even dream of knowing.

References

Governor announces Alaska’s exports remain strong Alaska’s 2008 exports at $3.6 billion. (2006, March 26). State of Alaska, Governor. Retrieved March 26, 2009 from: http://www.gov.state.ak.us/news.php?id=1724