Alex Salov is a Business Advisor at the Alaska Small Business Development Center. He holds a master’s degree in global supply chain management from the University of Alaska Anchorage and worked at the World Trade Center Anchorage for fifteen years.
Alaska has a long history of international trade and there is a reason for that: the state is located within the transportation “crossroads” of the world. Due to its relative remoteness and isolation from the Lower 48, since the mid-20th century Alaska has been actively positioning itself as a part of the Pacific Rim.
Late Governor Wally Hickel famously noted that “Alaska’s political ties are with the United States, but our economic ties are with Asia. Our economy depends on exports.” The Alaska timber industry was successfully selling to Japan in the 1950s; for several decades liquefied natural gas was exported to Japan and coal to Korea; and after the fall of the Soviet Union, Alaska companies were among the first to enter the Russian Far Eastern market.
By the beginning of the 21st century, Alaska had international trade offices (similar to embassies) in five countries: Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Russia. Many of these fruitful developments have been phased out in recent years due to economic and political changes. For example, the State of Alaska no longer maintains the Office of International Trade or trade representatives overseas.