Alaska wants cold crabs and colder gas to narrow China trade gap

(Bloomberg) — Alaska’s natural resources such as liquefied natural gas and seafood can make it the single most significant factor in narrowing the U.S. trade gap with China, Governor Bill Walker says.

A planned LNG project alone would shrink the trade gap between U.S. and China by up to $10 billion a year, Walker said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Beijing, where he met with Vice Premier Liu He as part of a trade mission with business leaders.

Liu indicated “that we need to keep doing what we’re doing” with trade deals, Walker said, referring to the agreement on the proposed LNG project, where natural gas is cooled to minus 256 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 160 Celsius), compressing it to 1/600th of its volume to be shipped aboard tankers. China has been Alaska’s largest trade partner and export destination since 2011, according to a Xinhua News Agency report citing official data.

China Petrochemical Corp., known as Sinopec Group, and Bank of China Ltd. last year signed an agreement with Alaska for a $43 billion project to pipe gas from the state’s north shore to a proposed liquefaction terminal in the south, where it would be shipped abroad. U.S. regulators will issue a draft environmental impact statement for the project in March.

Minerals and mining opportunities “could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Walker said. In other industries, Walker said seafood trade is about $1 billion “and we think we could probably triple that.” Minerals and mining opportunities “could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said, citing a recent visit to an Alaska gold mine that sends all its output to China.

“We really think we’re key to resolving this trade deficit, or at least a big step,” he said. Industry representatives traveling with him on the May 19-30 trade mission include those from beer microbrewing, baby food, fisheries, tourism, timber, mining, education, sports and an exporter who flies live king crabs to China, he said.

Walker added that he’s working “very hard” to establish new airline routes. His office said last week that Alaska and China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang have signed a joint agreement that includes working to start direct flights between Anchorage and Harbin.