Feb 17, 2016 - 12:30pm

The Benefits of International Commerce: Look No Further Than South Carolina

Senior Vice President for International Policy

To: The 45th President of the United States
From: John Murphy

The presidential campaign is heating up, and right on cue several candidates are trying to demagogue international trade and investment.

It’s especially peculiar to hear these claims on the eve of the primaries in South Carolina, a state that benefits tremendously from international engagement.

For example, one aspirant to the White House recently insisted that international commerce has “resulted in the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs,” while another has promised to slap double-digit tariffs on imports from China and Mexico.


In South Carolina and moving forward during the campaign, we urge you to remember the benefits of international commerce. Start with the investment side of the equation. Just this week, fDi Magazine, which is published by the Financial Times, crowned South Carolina “the US FDI [foreign direct investment] national champion.” “While University of Alabama snatched victory from Clemson University on the football field,” the magazine reported, “South Carolina is taking home the trophy where FDI is concerned.”

In fact, South Carolina ranks first in the nation in the number of jobs created by investments from overseas on a per capita basis. In absolute numbers, the Palmetto State ranks 16th in the nation in the total number of jobs supported at the U.S. operations of foreign-headquartered companies, according to data from the Organization for International Investment, which represents such “insourcing” companies.


U.S. subsidiaries of global companies support 115,900 jobs in South Carolina, and they write paychecks to 7.6 percent of South Carolina’s private-sector workforce. Over half of these are in the manufacturing sector (which, contrary to nearly every press account, has seen its real output expand by 76% nationally over the past quarter century).

The numbers on the trade front are even larger. The state’s exports reached $35 billion in 2014. South Carolina punches above its weight as the 17th-largest exporter in the United States — not bad for a state that ranks 24th in population and 27th in the size of its economy.

Nor is this Palmetto success story just about big firms such as BMW, Fluor, Michelin, Sealed Air, and GE: The state is home to nearly 5,000 small and midsized exporters.

All told, more than 575,000 South Carolina jobs are supported by trade. That’s nearly one in four. The state’s top export markets are China, Germany, Canada, and Mexico.

That’s worth keeping in mind the next time someone proposes to slap a 45% tax on countries that are among our best customers.


John Murphy
Senior Vice President for International Policy
U.S. Chamber of Commerce


About the Author

About the Author

Senior Vice President for International Policy

Murphy directs the U.S. Chamber’s advocacy relating to international trade and investment policy.