Sullivan, Murkowski, Graves & Peltola Seek to Close Loopholes Allowing Russian Access to U.S. Seafood Market

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski (both R-Alaska) this week introduced the U.S-Russian Federation Seafood Reciprocity Act of 2023, legislation that would impose a comprehensive ban on the import of all Russian-origin seafood products into the United States. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representatives Garret Graves (R-La.) and Mary Sattler Peltola (D-Alaska).

In March of 2022, President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14068, which prohibits the import of unaltered seafood originating in Russia. However, EO 14068 fails to block Russian seafood that has been substantially transformed in another country through reprocessing. The proposed legislation would block Russian imports until American fishermen and processors are afforded reciprocal access to the Russian market.

“Since coming to the Senate, I’ve made the case to every senator, every cabinet secretary, and every administration official who will hear me: We should not be allowing Russian seafood to enter the U.S. market at the same time Russia is barring America’s fishermen and seafood processors from accessing their market,” said Sen. Sullivan. “This is a matter of basic fairness and reciprocity that every American can understand. Since the brutal invasion of Ukraine, we fought even harder and secured an executive order putting sanctions on a significant portion of Russian imports, but loopholes are still allowing Russian seafood to be imported when reprocessed in other countries, especially Communist China. This has to end. I encourage my colleagues to stand with American fishermen, join us in restoring fairness and reciprocity in this bilateral seafood trade relationship, and close off another revenue stream for the Putin regime as it continues its brutal, unjust war in Ukraine.”

“There are many ways to support Ukraine in this awful war waged by Putin. Sanctions should matter as we squeeze Russia’s economic prosperity used to attack Ukraine,” said Sen. Murkowski. “Alaskans have faced a one-sided Russian embargo on seafood since 2014. It’s well past time we ensure America’s seafood economy is safeguarded against unfair trade practices. This legislation will help correct this trade imbalance and bring parity to Alaska’s world-class seafood industry.”

“It makes no sense that we are aiding Ukraine to resist Russia’s invasion while effectively funding the Russian military through illegal seafood sales," said Rep. Graves. "Russian seafood is supposed to be banned from our markets. But instead, the Russians are secretly shipping their products to China and slapping on a ‘Made in China’ sticker to get around these sanctions. Our legislation will not only end this practice, but it will also provide better support to seafood producers In Louisiana and across the U.S.”

“Russia's hostile actions around the world are not limited to the land. While they have banned imports of U.S. seafood, they continue to sell their catch, including large amounts of pollock caught by trawling, into our stores,” said Rep. Peltola. “Often, they disguise their product by processing it in and re-exporting from China. We need to stand up for ocean health and our American fishermen, and make sure that Americans are not unknowingly buying seafood from Russian vessels that have little oversight or regulation. Our oceans are all connected, and we shouldn't ignore foreign trawlers who are harming the ocean and misleading American consumers. I'm glad to help lead this bipartisan bill to clearly ban these deceptive practices and protect our seafood supply chain.”

Senators Sullivan and Murkowski originally introduced legislation 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 is background on 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.
  • On February 9. 2022, Senators Sullivan and Murkowski introduced theU.S-Russian Federation Seafood Reciprocity Act, legislation that would impose a ban on the import of all Russian seafood products into the United States.
  • On February 15, 2022, Sen. Sullivan included a provision in the Never Yielding Europe’s Territory (NYET) Act that directs the federal government to prohibit Russian seafood imports into the U.S.
  • On February 17, 2022, Sen. Sullivan attempted to pass the U.S-Russian Federation Seafood Reciprocity Act by unanimous consent, but the bill was blocked by Senate Democrats. 
  • On March 11, 2022, the Biden administrationannounced it willprohibit the import of Russian seafood into the United States, in addition to banning goods from several other signature sectors of Russia’s economy. President Biden also announced his intention to revoke Russia’s “most-favored nation” status as a member of the World Trade Organization. Sen. Sullivan called for this sanction on Saturday, March 5, after hearing from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a congressional Zoom meeting.

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