White House Urged to Push Back Against Russia’ Seafood Boycott

Alaska’s congressional delegation has asked
the White House to try using all diplomatic means to persuade Russia to rescind
its ban on seafood imports, but failing that asks for a ban on importing
Russian seafood into the United States.
This approach to Russia’s political
brinksmanship has strong support from Alaska’s seafood industry, the Alaska
delegation said in a letter Aug. 26 to President Obama.

Russia’s decision to ban imports from the US
and Europe stemmed from economic sanctions brought against Russia after the
downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in July, and Russia’s
support for separatist rebels whom Western officials blame for the crash.

If a ban is imposed on Russian imports, it
is critical that US trade officials implement it in a way that tracks and
covers all Russian-origin products throughout the distribution chain, including
those reprocessed or transshipped through third countries, the delegation said.

This could be difficult, according to
Gunnar Knapp, an economics professor who is director of the University of
Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research. It may be
difficult in some instances to really figure out what is a Russian product, he
said.  For example, a lot of Russian
fish, just like a lot of Alaska fish, gets shipped to China for reprocessing,
and then sent here.  Knapp asked if the US
bans imports of Russian fish, would that also include imports of fish caught by
Russians in Russia shipped to us from China, and how would we effectively
monitor and enforce that?

In general, said Knapp, when Country A bans
imports from Country B, prices go up in Country A, and Country A domestic
producers benefit.  Meanwhile consumers
in Country A are worse off, with higher prices and perhaps the inability to get
products they want. And exporters from Country B are also worse off.

Right now, said Knapp, Russian domestic
producers are benefitting from higher prices, but Russian consumers are losing
because of those higher prices. Meanwhile exporters in the US, including Alaska
companies that export salmon roe to Russia, are harmed, as well as Norwegian
salmon farmers for whom Russia was their largest market.

Economists, himself included, feel that
everyone loses in a trade war when countries ban each other’s imports, he said.