Japan's economic recovery could bolster Alaska fisheries, mining

Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Alaska may be benefiting from a Japanese economic recovery, trade officials and economists said Tuesday.

Japan, the state's biggest trade partner, has expanded its economy in the first quarter this year by an annual rate of 6.1 percent after years of deflation and slow growth.

With that rise has come an increase in the amount of seafood, energy and materials Alaska exports there. And state officials hope that investments, such as Sumitomo Metal Mining Co.'s partnership in the Pogo Mine development, will mean opening further Alaska's minerals market to Japan and the rest of the Pacific Rim.

Alaska exported $331.7 million to Japan in the first quarter of 2004, up from $239.1 million for the same period last year.

State economist Mark Edwards said while some of the increase may be due to seasonal fluctuations, the signs are good for growth.

"Seafood is up, energy is up," Edwards said. "The trends domestically in Japan are positive."

Alaska exported $2.7 billion in goods worldwide last year. Exports to Japan were just over $1 billion, or about 42 percent of Alaska's exports. Korea is second, with $567 million of Alaska goods bought last year.

Exports are just a small part of the state economy, which totaled about $28 billion in 2001 (the latest number available), but Edwards said the multiplier effect of jobs and capital investment could add another $600 million to the economy for every $1 billion spent.

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