Gov. Kemp Announces Stellar Global Trade in 2018

  • Gov. Kemp announced Georgia’s total international trade rose 8 percent to $139.3 billion in 2018.
  • The active international trade last year came despite concerns of a dampening of global commerce due to rising trade tensions.
  • The Selig Center for Economic Growth projects growth in international trade to continue in 2019.

On Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced record international trade numbers in Georgia. Both exports and imports grew last year, demonstrating resilience from the mounting trade tensions beginning at the start of 2018. Exports exceeded $40.5 billion, a 9 percent increase over 2017. Georgia’s top exports were in the aerospace, agricultural products, medical devices, and automotive industries. Imports stood at $98.7 billion in 2018, up 8 percent from the previous year. Compared to the rest of the U.S., Georgia is ranked eleventh in exports and seventh by imports. Of the 223 countries and territories Georgia trades with annually, the state’s top trading partners are China, Germany, Mexico, Canada, and Japan.

Georgia’s success in pursuing international trade comes as ongoing trade tensions and increased tariffs have raised costs and disrupted supply chains. The growth of Georgia’s exports and imports suggest that the state’s economic growth, fueled in part by federal tax reform, have outweighed the economic burdens placed by the trade disputes.

Further, the impressive international trade numbers were particularly encouraging for agricultural products. Set back by tariffs from China and Hurricane Michael’s damage on southwest Georgia, agricultural exports held at $4.2 billion in 2018. Strong poultry sales and export growth in dairy, cotton, and peanuts supported total agricultural export resiliency.

And there’s plenty of reason to suspect Georgia’s international trading relationships will continue to grow in the coming years. Georgia’s international trade has increased steadily over the last decade, with exports rising by 71 percent. The Selig Center for Economic Growth projects real exports and imports will increase faster than GDP this year.

Moreover, on Wednesday, Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) and David Perdue (R-Ga), and Congressman Buddy Carter (R-Ga) announced they had secured an additional $130 million to keep the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) on track for the fiscal year 2020. According to Rep. Carter, the project to deepen Savannah’s port has a “benefit to cost ratio of 7.3 to 1.” SHEP will make it easier for the port to service larger vessels and is likely to bolster the state’s competitiveness in global commerce.

However, there are still obstacles in the way of increasing Georgia’s export growth, namely the strong dollar, trade tensions, and tariffs. Furthermore, a potential slowing of the global economy could weigh against export growth. For imports in Georgia, consumer spending will be a key factor in whether growth continues.

Gov. Kemp in his announcement stated, “Trade is a vital part of our state’s economy, and it is exciting to see Georgia products in such high demand across the globe. I thank Governor Perdue and Governor Deal for prioritizing Georgia’s success on the international stage and their commitment to expanding our state’s trade industry. With nearly 90% of exporters classified as small businesses, the 2018 trade numbers showcase the strength and diversity of Georgia’s economy. I look forward to building on today’s announcement and working with private-sector partners to explore new markets for hardworking Georgians.”

The full report prepared by the Georgia Department of Economic Development can be located here.

Updated 8:06 am 3/16/2019


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