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Georgia jobs and investment on line if Trump and Merkel head for trade conflict

 If a presidential feud with Germany escalates into a trade skirmish, the economy of Georgia – especially that of metro Atlanta – will have a sizeable stake in the battle.

President Trump’s visit to Europe last week ruffled some feathers, and prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to pointedly say that the continent could no longer depend on the United States. 

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On Tuesday, Trump fired an angry, early morning tweet slamming the Germans. “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military,” he wrote. “Very bad for U.S. This will change.”

In a counterpoint, Merkel held friendly meetings with leaders of India and China.

It could be that the tension will dissipate, that both leaders will wend their way to other issues and other crises. But perhaps not. And if trade is shaken or disrupted, Georgia will have a lot of jobs and money on the table.

Georgia imported $13.7 billion in goods from Germany last year, making it second only to China as second-largest importer to the state, according to the most recent data available from the state’s Department of Economic Development.

The year before, Germany imported more than $16 billion worth of goods to Georgia and was the top importer to the state.

Georgia last year exported about $1.5 billion in goods to Germany, up 7 percent from the year before. That made Germany the fourth-largest export market for Georgia, said the Department of Economic Development.

Among the goods shipped from Germany: vehicles, parts, gas turbines, engines and chemicals, according to the state Department of Economic Development.

Among goods shipped from Georgia to Germany: kaolinic clay, wood pulp and optical fiber. 

But it is not just the shipment in and out of the state that matters. At least Georgia 57 companies have facilities in Germany, including AGCO, Delta Air Lines, Kimberly-Clark, Coca-Cola, Turner Broadcasting and UPS, said Economic Development officials.

And that kind of direct investment is happening in both directions.

Delta Air Lines flies non-stop from Atlanta to four German cites: Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.

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German companies have a long history of investing and hiring in Georgia. State officials say an estimated 552 German businesses have operations spread across the state with a workforce of more than 22,100.

In metro Atlanta, there are nearly 200 German-owned companies with 14,955 employees, according to John Woodward, director of foreign investment for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. That includes German companies like Porsche, but also companies that have German corporate parents like MetroPCS, T-Mobile and Rack Room Shoes, he said. 

The numbers on foreign direct investment -- FDI -- are sometimes hard to calculate, Woodward said. “In any case, Germany is consistently one of the top sources of FDI in the region.”

Included in the German presence:  

-- Siemens, in Norcross, Alpharetta and Atlanta

-- Hansgrohe, in Alpharetta

-- Grenzebach, in Newnan

-- Dieffenbacher, in Alpharetta and Atlanta 

-- American BOA, in Cumming

-- Trox USA, in Cumming

-- Porsche, in Atlanta

-- Mercedes Benz USA, in Sandy Springs

-- Novem Car Interior Designs, in Austell

-- Heidelberg USA, in Kennesaw

-- BASF, in Irwinton, Dalton and Snellville

-- Fresenius Medical Care, in Atlanta and Sandy Springs.

There are also, of course, ripple effects – jobs created in companies that are serving German companies.

 For example, while Georgia’s auto manufacturing plant is owned by South Korea, there are German-owned plants in Alabama and South Carolina

Through the South, nearly 100,000 other Americans are employed by auto parts suppliers that serve German automakers, according to economist Mark Perry of the University of Michigan and the American Enterprise Institute.

  

 Trade as a shares of GDP, 2016

Michigan 38.9%

Kentucky 35.1%

Louisiana 34.6%

Tennessee 32.5%

South Carolina 32.1%

Texas 28.6%

Washington 27.0%

Indiana 24.6%

New Jersey 24.0%

GEORGIA 23.2%

Source: Census Bureau

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AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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