Experts say a trade war between the U.S. and China could negatively affect Georgia, which exports billions of dollars in products to the country each year and has been investing in business ties with China.
“It would hurt Georgia because you've got 1.3 billion Chinese people with rising incomes and a great demand for our agricultural products,” said Jeff Rosensweig, associate professor of international business and director of the John Robson Program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump talked about putting a 45 percent tariff on goods imported to the United States from China. That could lead to China retaliating with imposing its own tariffs, Rosensweig said.
In 2015, Georgia exported $2.6 billion of products to China, including poultry, kraft paper and wood products, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and imported $19.7 billion worth of products.
China is also big market for Georgia’s pecans, said Chris Chan, chair of the Georgia China Alliance, a nonprofit that helps build business relationships between the two countries.
“I know the Chinese think of pecans as almost a luxury item. For example they give a lot of gifts at the lunar New Year time which is going on right now,” said Chan, who’s also a law partner at Sutherland Asbill and Brennan.
The state of Georgia has been investing in economic development ties with the Asian nation in recent years. State economic development officials are in the country this week and have made multiple trips over the past several years. Gov. Nathan Deal proposed in his budget for fiscal year 2018 funding for economic development outreach in China. In September, Chinese company Sentury Tire announced it would open a manufacturing plant in LaGrange.
The Associated Press reported this week that the American Chamber of Commerce warned of China preparing for the possibility to retaliate if tariffs are imposed.
Rosensweig said he's skeptical that a full-fledged trade war will happen.
“Although it's a popular campaign plank, it’s just is in no one’s interest and I think cooler heads will ultimately prevail,” he said.
Correction: In the broadcast version of this story that aired on January 19, we incorrectly reported that the governor’s FY18 budget includes three positions for economic development in China. The three positions are for the Georgia Department of Economic Development agency as a whole, not specifically for initiatives in China. The budget includes $400,000 for economic development outreach in China. The audio above has been updated to reflect this change.