JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Bill Walker on Monday announced details of a spring trade mission to China that aims to build off existing relationships between the state and the Asian country.
The announcement comes amid mounting trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The trip, which Walker first mentioned in his State of the State speech in January, is set for May.
China has been a top export market for Alaska goods, and the state has been working to strengthen ties with the country as it pursues potential partnerships for a natural gas line project. Walker, an independent, played host to China's president in Anchorage last April.
In November, Walker and Keith Meyer, president of the state-sponsored Alaska Gasline Development Corp., signed an agreement with leaders of China Investment Corp., the Bank of China and Sinopec, a major oil and gas company.
The agreement calls for the parties to explore the feasibility of investing in the gas project, which proposes to move gas from Alaska's North Slope to Asian markets, and pursue terms to advance the project, including the potential for Sinopec to be involved in engineering, construction and other aspects. The agreement does not obligate any party.
Meyer downplayed the trade tensions between the U.S. and China and the pushback against China by President Donald Trump.
"Really, the pushback is a message to buy more stuff from the United States. And, again, that's where I think Alaska has the stuff that China wants," Meyer told reporters from Anchorage Monday. "So I think the message is quite harmonious with our mission."
Walker's office said the governor, his international trade director and Alaska's commerce commissioner will travel with business representatives. The state plans a competitive application process for participants, who must pay their way.
Alaska Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche, a Republican, said lawmakers need a lot more information about the gas project before deciding whether they can support it.