Sullivan, Murkowski Introduce Bill to Ban Russian Seafood Imports
Russia Has Banned U.S. Seafood Imports since 2014
U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (both R-Alaska) this week introduced the U.S-Russian Federation Seafood Reciprocity Act, legislation that would impose a ban on the import of all Russian seafood products into the United States in response to Russia’s own prohibition on the import of U.S. and other western seafood products since 2014. Russia enacted its embargo in response to a suite of sanctions the United States and its allies imposed following Russia’s 2014 invasion of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine.
“Most Americans would be astounded to learn that Russia has unfettered access to sell its seafood in the United States at the same time America’s fishermen and seafood processors have zero access to the Russian market,” said Sen. Sullivan. “This is just wrong and hurts our fishermen. For years, I’ve been pressing officials at all levels, from the Oval Office on down, to pursue a seafood trade relationship with Russia based on principles every American can understand—fairness and reciprocity. We don’t have that right now, and Vladimir Putin is benefiting enormously at the expense of our fishermen here at home, with the value of Russian seafood imports to the U.S. growing 173 percent since 2013, the year before the embargo was imposed. The Senate’s urgent interest in sanctioning Russia for its ongoing threats to Ukraine presents a window of opportunity to correct this unacceptable trade imbalance. I hope my colleagues will join me and Senator Murkowski in standing up for our world-class fisheries and this vital sector of our economy.”
“As Congress works on a sanctions package to deter Russia from invading Ukraine, it’s important that we explore all sectors of the Russian economy that we can influence, such as restricting imports of Russian seafood,” said Sen. Murkowski. “Americans – and especially Alaskans – have faced a one-sided Russian embargo on our seafood since 2014, allowing Russia’s economy to benefit while U.S. seafood has been harmed. I’m hopeful that after years of pushing this issue, this Congress and the Biden administration will finally agree to equalize the treatment of Alaska’s world-class seafood. This is a perfect addition to a package meant to show Russia that undermining and disrupting global norms will not go unpunished.”
“Since Russia initiated its embargo, Alaska’s seafood producers have suffered unfairly by being locked out of key Russian seafood markets,” said Chris Barrows, president of Pacific Seafood Processors Association. “We’re grateful that Alaska’s congressional delegation has worked tirelessly across multiple administrations to remedy this glaring trade imbalance and support domestically harvested seafood, made more difficult by seemingly intractable geopolitical forces. Through Senator Sullivan’s legislation, he and Senator Murkowski are once again leading on this issue and showing their resolve to defend our industry, until free and fair trade can be restored.”
Background of the Alaska congressional delegation’s work on behalf of the Alaska seafood industry:
- In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation that included a provision authored by Sen. Sullivan that requires fisheries to be included as a principal negotiating objective for all future trade agreements.
- In August of 2018, Sen. Sullivan testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission against the inclusion of Alaska seafood products in the $200 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese imports proposed by the Trump administration, and highlighted the economic impact of the Russian embargo on U.S. seafood.
- In October of 2018, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) removed proposed tariffs on Alaska salmon from the tariff package.
- On June 9, 2019, the Alaska congressional delegation sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging the Trump administration to provide relief for Alaska fishermen and seafood processors, as it has for the domestic agriculture industry, from the devastating impacts of retaliatory tariffs inflicted on American products by China.
- In January of 2020, the Senate passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal, which included an entire chapter on fisheries, including phasing out subsidies, combatting illegal fishing, prohibitions on certain vessels and operations, and reducing and removing tariffs.
- On January 28, 2021, the Alaska congressional delegation sent a letter calling on Acting Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Shea to expeditiously develop and robustly fund a program to provide grants and forgivable loan support to seafood processing facilities and processing vessels for COVID-19 response measures, in fulfillment of language Sen. Murkowski included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
- On May 14, 2021, the Alaska congressional delegation welcomed the USDA’s approval of a Section 32 purchase of up to $159.4 million in domestically-produced seafood, fruits, legumes, and nuts for distribution to food assistance programs in Alaska and across the country, to help offset the impacts of market restrictions by foreign countries.