A new report from the U.S. Commerce Department shows metro Atlanta exports surging in 2018 in the face of concerns that a multi-front trade war could stifle broader global economic growth.
Companies within the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metropolitan statistical area exported about $24.1 billion worth of products last year, about 60 percent of the overall export value of the state of Georgia.
Atlanta’s growth reflected the broader trend, as 392 U.S. metro areas overall saw their exports jump by a cumulative $110.3 billion, or about 8.1 percent, to $1.5 trillion.
The Trump administration took this as justification of its negotiation strategy: rebalancing trade by using the leverage of U.S. consumer spending to pry open reciprocal avenues for American products abroad.
“The Trump Administration is committed to addressing trade imbalances, breaking down trade barriers, and providing U.S. companies with new reach in foreign markets,” said Gilbert Kaplan, undersecretary for international trade at Commerce, in a news release. “With this increase in exports over the last year and the continued work of the Commercial Service, it is a fruitful time for American businesses.”
The metro area was one of many in the South that posted record figures, though Atlanta posted slower growth than some small cities, considering it is starting from a much higher base.
Other Georgia cities like Columbus (41 percent growth to $763 million) and Athens-Clarke County (27 percent growth to $378 million) were among the 13 cities in the South that posted record exports out of 71 in the region. Hinesville-Fort Stewart hit $437 million on a 10 percent increase.
“The $154 billion of goods exported from the metropolitan areas of the Southern region in 2018 indicate that local companies are realizing the benefits of global trade,” said U.S. Commercial Service Southern Regional Director Tom Strauss, who is based in Atlanta and whose office provides an array of services for local exporters. “Companies seeking to grow their business through exporting have the beneficial services and expertise of our local trade specialists to help with expanding into international markets.”
The metropolitan export data series tracks the origin based on the zip code of what’s known as the “primary party in interest” in the transaction — the company or entity that derives the main economic benefit from the export sale. Some other export figures — like those that track state-level exports — pinpoint geography based on the place from which the product begins its journey to the port.
In metro Atlanta, Fulton County dominated among counties, accounting for nearly $13.4 billion, or more than half the metro area’s exports. (That could be partly because the county is home to a mass of Fortune 500 companies gleaning the benefit of export sales, or because it includes Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is ringed by warehouses.) Gwinnett, Cobb, Fayette and Dekalb counties rounded out the top five.
The top five product categories also made up for more than half of the metro area’s combined export value: transportation equipment at $5.5 billion, computer and electronic products at $3.4 billion, machinery at $2.5 billion, paper at $2.2 billion and chemicals at $1.6 billion.
Despite being the ninth largest metro area, Atlanta ranked No. 14 in terms of overall goods exports. Previous examinations have shown that Atlanta’s trade is more balanced between goods and services, while some cities — like overall leader Houston, with $120 billion in exports of mostly oil, gas and chemical products — are more concentrated in physical products.
The NAFTA region dominated Atlanta’s destination markets: The metro area exported $3.6 billion to Mexico and $3.5 billion to Canada, followed by $1.6 billion to Germany, $1.4 billion to Singapore and $1 billion to Japan.