Senate Democrats Defend Russian Ban on U.S. Seafood Imports

Sullivan Legislation Would Restore Reciprocal Bilateral Seafood Trade Relationship

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today attempted to pass the U.S-Russian Federation Seafood Reciprocity Act by unanimous consent, but the bill was blocked by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Sullivan’s legislation, introduced last week with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), seeks to establish reciprocity in the U.S.-Russian seafood trading relationship by imposing 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.

Below are excerpts from Sen. Sullivan’s remarks on the Senate floor this afternoon. 

On the lack of a reciprocal seafood trade relationship: 

“If you're a big fisherman in Massachusetts or the great state of Alaska…you cannot export one fish to Russia. Nine years of a ban. And guess what? The United States lets Russian seafood into America almost duty free…Russia gets to export Russian seafood into America, duty free. That is called unfair by any measure.”

On the stakes for Alaska and American fishermen:

“The value of Russian seafood imported into the United States—surprise—has skyrocketed because there's no tariff on it. It’s skyrocketed 173 percent since 2013. That was the year before the embargo was imposed…The Russians are actually starting to steal market share from American fishermen, whether in Massachusetts or in Alaska, and we're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.”

On this simple, commonsense bill: 

“So the bill is simple. It just says, until we can export into the Russian market, they shouldn't be able to export into our market. I can't imagine any U.S. senator objecting to this. It's called reciprocity. It's called fairness, and it's righting a wrong that's been in the works for nine years now.”

On Republican support for his legislation:

“I've checked with all of my Republican colleagues and every single one of them is supportive of basic reciprocity for fishermen.”

In August of 2018, Sen. Sullivan testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission on the economic impact of the Russian embargo on U.S. seafood. On February 9, Sens. Sullivan and Murkowski introduced the U.S-Russian Federation Seafood Reciprocity Act. On February 15, Sullivan included a provision in the newly-introduced Never Yielding Europe’s Territory (NYET) Act that directs the federal government to prohibit Russian seafood imports to the U.S.

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