Will Japan disaster impact trade in Georgia?

TOKYO -- With Japan's crisis stemming from the island nation's massive earthquake and the resulting tsunami deepening, the domestic impact on the state's fourth-largest importer is being closely eyed by state officials.

Kathe Falls, director of the Georgia Department of Economic Development's International Trade Division, said the state is still working to determine if trade between the two nations will be affected and how best to help the disaster-stricken nation.

"We understand that recovery is a process and will take time.

Georgia's relationship with Japan is long-standing and runs quite deep. Our office in Tokyo opened in 1973 and was one of Georgia's very first international offices. Since that time, we have developed many relationships with the business community that have been beneficial for two-way trade and investment. We value those relationships and will be pursuing opportunities to assist in the rebuilding efforts," Falls said in a statement to The Herald.

According to state economic development officials, Georgia has strong ties to Japan. Atlanta is the home of a Japanese consulate, and five Georgia cities have partnered with Japan through a sister-city program to exchange goods and culture.

But Japan's biggest influence on Georgia is through the state's economy, where Georgians were able to export $1.2 billion worth of goods to the island nation last year, an increase of almost 10 percent over 2009.

Japan is currently the state's fourth-largest export market, with the top exports to Japan being pharmaceutical goods, wood pulp, aircraft and spacecraft goods, kaolin and other clays and machinery.

On a national level, Georgia leads the nation in exporting 12 different goods sectors, ranging from peanuts to steam turbines.

With the earthquake and resulting tsunami wiping out whole cities on the Japanese coastline, experts predict a tremendous impact on the Japanese economy, but exactly what the depth and breadth of that impact will be remains uncertain.

In terms of imports to Georgia, the state imported $3.2 billion in goods from Japan in 2010, which was a staggering 34 percent increase over 2009. Japan is the state's fifth-largest import market.

According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the state imports machinery, non-railway vehicles, electrical machinery, medical supplies and photographic goods.

Japanese-affiliated companies employ more than 21,500 Georgians.