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Brookings: Metro Atlanta a key center of trade but most is domestic

By Maria Saporta

Metropolitan areas in the United States are the heart of trade in the nation’s economy — including Atlanta’s economy. But most of that trade is domestic rather than international.

The report by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program is being released at 12:01 a.m. today as part of the five-year Global Cities Initiative. The report studied trade in the top 100 metro areas in the United States.

In all, those metro areas generate $20 trillion in trade — 85 percent of which is domestic and 15 percent of which is international, according to the new discussion paper — Metro-to-Metro: Global and Domestic Goods Trade in Metropolitan America. It is the first-ever measurement of goods exchange at the sub-national scale.

The Atlanta metro area trades $337 billion in total value — which ranks it seventh among the 100 top metro areas in the United States with its total goods trade.

But when it comes to international trade, Atlanta fares much worse. Of its total goods traded, only 11.3 percent of it is international trade — which means that the metro area ranks 73rd among the 100 metro regions.

But the high value goods tend to be those traded internationally, which explains why there is such a desire to improve the Atlanta region’s international trade as well as that of other countries.

 “Metropolitan areas depend on each other for producing and consuming goods,” said Robert Puentes, Brookings senior fellow and report co-author. “This new research will help leaders make smarter decisions to develop more vibrant trading economies and more and better jobs.”

The research shows that all metropolitan areas run a trade surplus in at least one type of commodity, sending out more goods to other markets than they take in.

With distinct economic specialties, metro areas like Omaha and Fresno have an advantage in moving agricultural products, while metro areas like Chicago and Pittsburgh generate enormous profits from metals. The largest metro areas have a particular advantage exporting advanced industry commodities, such as electronics and precision instruments, running a trade surplus of $52 billion in these goods alone.

Other findings in the paper included:

*  The 100 largest metro areas are responsible for the vast majority of international trade, more than 63 percent.

*  The 100 largest metro areas tend to trade more valuable commodities; and

*  Some metropolitan areas are heavily-oriented toward international trade overall, such as San Jose, Houston and Washington, D.C.

Launched in 2012, the Global Cities Initiative is a five-year joint project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase aimed at helping U.S. city and metropolitan leaders become more globally fluent by providing an in-depth and data-driven look at their regional standing on crucial global economic measures, highlighting best policy and practice innovations from around the world, and creating an international network of leaders who ultimately trade and grow together. For more information please click here.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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