Trade in goods and services supports 20 percent of Georgia jobs.

If you have a job in Georgia, there’s a 20 percent chance it’s because a product crossed a border somewhere or a service was successfully purchased from an American in a foreign land.  

That’s the upshot of a new report from the Business Roundtable, an advocacy group comprising executives of the largest corporations in the country that promotes free trade as a means to economic resilience, among other goals.   

Pre-pandemic, trade supported 1.27 million Georgia jobs, representing about one in five workers in the state, according to newly compiled research that relies largely on 2018 data.  

The lag in publication means the report fails to capture the recent period of slowdown in trade brought about the Trump administration’s China trade war and the ensuing coronavirus pandemic. Despite hitting a record, Georgia’s exports, for instance, grew just 1.5 percent in 2019 

But it does put some numbers around what export promoters have been saying for years: Namely that companies that engage in international trade — especially the small ones — are more resilient those that remain insular. Exporting plants grew 2-4 percent faster and paid 16 percent higher wages than non-exporters.  

The study also purports to quantify how much money Georgians have saved thanks to free and open trade. It comes to $10,000 per year for each family of four “through lower prices and increased specialization.” Georgians paid less than a decade ago on items like televisions (-88 percent), computers (-63 percent) and toys (-45 percent) as the state became more integrated with the world.  

Georgia’s trade-oriented jobs also expanded a clip four times faster than purely domestically dependent positions since 1992.  

Some 15,010 Georgian companies exported products or services in 2018; 88 percent of them were small or medium-sized businesses.  

All this means that trade should be an integral part of the U.S.’s recovery plan after the pandemic-induced downturn it’s experiencing, which has shocked the global economy and threatens to reorient supply chains and reshuffle trade routes. 

Similar to Georgia, some 40 million jobs nationally were attributable to global trade, or about one in five. The findings were largely in line with last year’s report: Report: Trade Supports One in Five U.S. Jobs and More Than a Million in Georgia

“In 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic has brought dual public health and economic crises. Meeting both challenges requires restoring trade and supporting trade-dependent jobs to help Georgia recover,” the Georgia edition of the state-focused report reads.

That’s one reason the U.S. Small Business Administration recently provided the Georgia Department of Economic Development $162,000 to provide reimbursement grants of up to $6,000 for small-business exporters in 2020-21.

See the full Business Roundtable report on Georgia trade here and the national study 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...