Georgia announced another year of record exports in 2019 on modest growth, even as trade with China, its top partner, dropped sharply amid a tariff war that cast uncertainty over the year.
Other countries and high-tech sectors picked up the slack, however, allowing Georgia to post 1.5 percent export growth to $41.2 billion, even as the U.S. as a whole saw a slight export reduction.
Georgia’s imports from China dropped by 17 percent to $19.8 billion, while the sales of Georgia products there fell by almost 21 percent to $2.3 billion. China fell out of the top three export markets for the first time in years.
Starting in 2017, President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on $370 billion in Chinese imports and threatened further moves late last year before the so-called “Phase One” trade deal reached in mid-January put the brakes on further escalation.
Even amid a coronavirus outbreak in the country that could affect economic output, China this week removed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products totaling $75 billion. The pain could be a blip, as the country committed as a part of the deal to purchase $200 billion in American products over 2017 levels over the next two years, including more than $40 billion in farm goods. Some have questioned whether that’s a realistic goal.
Exports to Canada and Mexico, the top two customers for Georgia, fell by 6 percent and 10 percent, respectively, amid uncertainty over the revamp to NAFTA known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Congress approved and Mr. Trump signed the deal Jan. 29; it awaits ratification in Canada, which will be followed by an implementation period. Experts believe could enter into force as early as this summer.
A growth in exports by 20 percent to Germany, led by growing sales of civilian aircraft (up 48 percent), contact lenses (26 percent) and medical instruments (93 percent), helped offset weaker China numbers.
Singapore also helped absorb some China losses, buying 26 percent more Georgia goods, landing at $2 billion and staying at No. 5 in Georgia’s customer rankings. The next highest market, the United Kingdom, declined by 3.2 percent to $1.5 billion.
Exports to the United Arab Emirates grew by 19.6 percent growth, putting the Middle Eastern country in the top 10 export destinations for the first time.
As for sectors, medical devices grew by 8 percent to $1.9 billion. Auto exports were down slightly to $3.2 billion, the second straight year they were flat to down. Aerospace exports hit a record $10.8 billion.
“This exciting news for Georgia exports affirms what we know to be true: you can truly make anything and send it anywhere in the world from right here in Georgia,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a news release announcing the numbers.
Separately, the Georgia Ports Authority said in late January that the Port of Savannah moved a record 4.6 million twenty-foot equivalent unit containers, or TEUs, in calendar year 2019, a 5.6 percent increase.
Georgia companies in 2019 sent products to 214 countries and territories, including the 12 where the state has offices promoting exports and investment: Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Europe, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Peru, and the United Kingdom.
Georgia’s total trade, the combination of exports and imports, topped $143.3 billion, an increase of 2.8 percent.
Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said the state’s international trade division works with some 2,000 companies in any given year. Most are small businesses.
“This report is a great snapshot of thousands of success stories and demonstrates how our services can help more companies achieve their goals,” said GDEcD Deputy Commissioner for International Trade Mary Waters.
To read the full 2019 report, click here.
Learn more about the department’s international services at https://www.georgia.org/international/trade.