Alaska has had a role in the global economy since the late 1700s, when Russian fur traders first traded Alaska sea otter pelts with the Chinese. Sale of natural resource commodities to world markets has been an economic theme ever since, and today the state’s major international exports are seafood, minerals and ores, and petroleum. Over the last five years Alaska’s exports have averaged nearly $5 billion per year.

Breaking down Alaska’s exports by specific product offers further detail. Zinc is the state’s single most valuable international export, sourced from Red Dog Mine, located in the Northwest Arctic region of the state, with one of the largest known reserves of zinc in the world.  Various seafood and petroleum products, (which sometimes follow inconsistent classifications) make up most of the remainder of international exports.


China is Alaska’s largest international trading partner. Exports to China are fueled primarily by seafood products and minerals, ores, and oil and gas. China’s actual consumption of Alaska seafood is low in comparison to the country’s imports – where much of the seafood imported is processed in China and sold to Japanese markets.


Japan is the biggest international consumer of Alaskan fish. Fisheries products make up more than half of exports to the country. Alaska’s other natural resources make up the bulk of the rest of the exports to Japan.


Many of Alaska’s natural resources are exported to Canada. There are dozens of mining projects in Alaska operating with Canadian participation so it comes as no surprise that the majority of trade between Alaska and Canada is in metals and ores. In 2017, three-quarters of exports to Canada were minerals and ores.

South Korea

South Korea is another major buyer of Alaska’s fish and fish products. Almost two-thirds of Alaska’s exports to the country are fisheries products. Zinc and lead make up most of the rest of the exports to South Korea. Alaska also exports fuel to South Korea, including oil and coal.