Georgia exports to China surpassed the $2 billion mark for the first time as growth in sales of American products, crops and services to the country continued to far outpace other markets in 2010, according to a new report by the United States-China Business Council Inc., a private, nonprofit organization comprised of 220 U.S. corporations doing business with China.

Georgia’s 35 percent jump to $2.4 billion landed it at No. 9 among states, according to the report, which tracked export growth by state from 2000-10.

Overall, U.S. exports to China grew by 32 percent to $91.9 billion last year, a strong recovery after a slight dip in 2009. China remained the third largest U.S. export destination behind Canada and Mexico. For the 11-year period ending in 2010, U.S. sales to China grew by 468 percent. The nearest competitor was Brazil at 131 percent.

Georgia’s sales to the world’s most populous nation grew 632 percent during that period, outperforming the national average. China is Georgia’s second largest export market behind Canada. The state’s top five products sold there in 2010 were paper goods, transportation equipment, waste and scrap, chemicals and computers and electronics.   

Other than Louisiana, which ranked No. 4 in China exports at $6.5 billion, Georgia was the only other Southeastern state in the top 10. South Carolina and Alabama trailed at No. 14 and No. 15, with sales of $2.2 billion and $1.9 billion respectively.

While the council has gone to bat over the past year for U.S. companies complaining that the Chinese government has favored domestic industry, it has also sought to insert a measure of calm into the ongoing debate over China’s currency policy and how it affects the U.S.

The Chinese government has relaxed its hold on the yuan, allowing it to begin a controlled appreciation against the dollar. Many economists and legislators believe that the currency is artificially undervalued, giving China’s exports an advantage in world markets and forcing a wide bilateral trade gap that has cost American workers millions of jobs.

The council’s report aimed to show the benefit of China sales for companies across the board. Small and medium-sized firms sold $33 billion in goods to China and Hong Kong in 2008, the latest year for which statistics are available, the report said. That surpassed total U.S. exports to France in 2010, including those of corporate giants.

“It is important to note that large American companies aren’t the only ones benefiting from this trade between the U.S. and China. China is now the third largest export market from American small- and medium-sized companies, too,” said John Frisbie, president of the council, in a news release. 

The council believes that companies could do even better in China if the U.S. government would provide more assistance. The report called for the U.S. Commercial Service to help companies enter thriving second- and third-tier cities and said the Export-Import Bank of the United States should make it a priority to provide more loans.

The report also said that state and local outreach would be integral to boosting U.S. exports to China. Georgia has an office in Beijing that helps companies research the market and find partners. The state has also introduced new services to companies get in front of the right buyers. Read: Trade Grows, Investment Slows at Georgia’s China Office

To download the full US-China Business Council report, click here.

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...