Amid a record year for global trade, the Georgia Ports Authority's container volumes passed 4 million for the first time ever. Photo: GPA

Georgia’s total exports grew by 4 percent to $37.2 billion in 2017, reversing the previous year’s steep decline but not yet returning global sales to their peak of $38.5 billion in 2015.  

Meanwhile, the combination of recovering exports and increased imports propelled the state to its highest overall trade volumes ever. 

Georgia companies imported and exported $128.6 billion in goods to 225 countries and territories — growing total trade by 5.7 percent over the previous year, according to the new figures reported by the Georgia Department of Economic Development

Surging Imports

Like the broader U.S., Georgia saw its customary trade deficit once again reflected in the figures, despite pledges during by the Trump administration to tackle imbalances. 

State imports soared to $91.4 billion, led by a resurgence in purchasing from China. Despite declines in Chinese imports over the previous year, Georgia bought $22.2 billion worth of goods from its top import partner in 2017, a 20 percent increase over 2016. China was the source for nearly a quarter of Georgia’s import value. 

Other big gains on the import front were from France, which was up 20 percent to $2.4 billion, and Thailand, which snuck into Georgia’s top 10 import sources by growing its Georgia sales 17 percent to $1.8 billion. Those countries were the state’s No. 8 and No. 10 import sources, respectively. 

Despite NAFTA renegotiation talks that dragged on throughout the year, imports from Mexico and Canada surged 7 percent and 5 percent to $6.8 billion and $3.9 billion, respectively. They remained the No. 3 and 6 import sources. 

Germany, the state’s No. 2 import partner, saw its volumes decline by 10 percent to $12.4 billion this year, while Korean imports stagnated amid trade tensions between the U.S. and Korea. Both of those countries generally see large import numbers because they send cars to the U.S. through Georgia. The state imported $17.2 billion in vehicles in 2017. 

Planes, Poultry Drive Export Recovery 

On the export side, the recovery was largely driven by India, where total export sales grew 167 percent to crack $1 billion for the first time. 

The most plausible explanation for the surge is the Indian Air Force taking delivery of multiple C130J transport planes made in Marietta, Ga., by Lockheed Martin

Commerce Department back that up, with figures showing that aerospace products and parts exports from Georgia to India skyrocketed from $19 million in 2016 to $566 million last year. Lockheed Martin executives also had said previously that they would deliver six of the massive planes in 2017. 

Georgia aerospace exports overall were up 4 percent to $8.3 billion, putting the sector once again atop Georgia’s list of export products. Additional strong sectors were agribusiness, automotive, medical devices and pharmaceuticals, and building and construction. 

Other strong growth markets for Georgia exports included the Netherlands, which also cracked $1 billion with a 36 percent increase; Germany (17 percent), China (9 percent) and Singapore (8 percent). Exports to Korea dropped by 11 percent, while sales to Japan and the United Kingdom fell by 3 and 4 percent, respectively. 

Georgia’s poultry exports grew 22 percent in 2017 to top $1 billion as many markets around the world reopened to American chicken. 

One of the top poultry-producing states, Georgia’s rate of export growth more than doubled the 10.5 percent seen industry-wide in the U.S., according to the Stone Mountain-based USA Poultry and Egg Export Council

The positive figures reflected the first significantly positive turnabout from 2015, when exports plummeted by 25.8 percent following an outbreak of avian influenza that caused some countries to impose nationwide bans on U.S. chicken and turkey. All except China have reopened their markets, since the outbreak, which USAPEEC says cost the industry $4 billion.

Georgia’s full top-10 export destinations by value: 


Percentage growth rates of top-10 export destinations:

Two-thirds of Georgia’s exports went to the 11 countries where the state has resident representatives helping companies from the state tap into opportunities. Those nations include: Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Europe, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico and the United Kingdom and Ireland.

To meet these reps and some of the companies behind the numbers, attend the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Go Global reception, where Gov. Nathan Deal will honor exporters who tapped new markets with GLOBE Awards — Georgians Leveraging Opportunities by Exporting.  

Visit to attend. (Disclosure: Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Trade Division is a Global Atlanta annual sponsor.)

For the full trade report, click here.

To read profiles of more than 15 exporters from around the state, please see Global Atlanta’s Export Stories 2017 Special Report, sponsored by the Atlanta Metro Export Challenge.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...

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