Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is traveling in Germany on what is his second trip to one of the state’s top investor nations since taking office last January.
Accompanied by Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson and First Lady Marty Kemp, Mr. Kemp attended a ribbon-cutting for the opening of the department’s expanded European trade and investment office in Munich, the governor’s office announced Wednesday.
The state’s presence in the Bavarian capital has “led to investments from some of Germany’s largest corporations, and these strategic investments have paid off,” Mr. Wilson said, noting Georgia’s 45-year presence in Europe.
Mr. Kemp’s itinerary includes meetings with small and large German companies, including manufacturers, which have brought some of the 800 German-owned facilities the state counts here. They employ more than 36,000 people and help facilitate a two-way trade relationship that eclipsed $12 billion last year.
The visit comes months after top government officials from Bavaria visited Atlanta last summer, calling for deeper ties at the state level amid bilateral trade turbulence.
Particularly concerning for Bavarian State Minister Florian Herrmann was the threat of automotive tariffs, which looms as large as ever now that the U.S. is turning its attention toward Europe on trade.
Speaking to reporters after his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, President Trump reiterated that tariffs on this vital industry would be used as leverage in upcoming talks.
The administration is also defying Congress’s calls for the public release of a U.S. Commerce Department report on whether imported cars and parts harm national security — which Mr. Trump is using as the legal basis for his tariff plans.
Mr. Herrmann, who met with Mr. Kemp on his trip, said during his Atlanta visit that this uncertainty makes it all the more important for states to work together, adding then that he would welcome a visit by the Georgia governor.
“I think it’s always better to meet and talk and get a personal impression rather than just reading files,” Mr. Herrmann told Global Atlanta at the time.
Auto tariffs would have a direct impact on Georgia, likely in the form of more expensive cars for consumers, but by extension potentially harming auto makers that make their home here, as well as suppliers that serve German factories in the region.
Porsche, which operates a gleaming headquarters by the airport, makes all of its cars in Germany. Mercedes-Benz, also with a headquarters in Atlanta, imports some of its models, as well as parts that go into its Southern U.S. factories. BMW makes cars just across the border in Spartanburg, S.C., and is said to be the top auto exporter in the U.S.
Of the $9.8 billion in goods Georgia imported from Germany in 2018, the top category was cars, with auto parts and accessories following close behind. Georgia’s exports to Germany totaled $2.29 billion; engines and parts as well as motor vehicles were the No. 2 and 3 products, respectively.
Gov. Kemp visited South Korea last June and Wednesday morning announced a $61 million investment from EnChem, a Korean supplier to the new SK Innovation factory in Jackson County.