South Carolina’s Top 10 Exports

South Carolina state flag courtesy of

South Carolina state flag

Nicknamed “The Palmetto State” and found in America’s southeastern region, South Carolina shipped US$32.2 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount represents a 2.9% uptick from 2016 to 2017 and an 8.3% gain since 2014.

South Carolina is America’s sixteenth-biggest exporter by state behind front-runners Texas, California, Washington and New York state. The value of South Carolina’s exports equals 2.1% of United States’ overall exported products for 2017.

Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), South Carolina’s exported products represent 17.5% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2016. The latter real dollar values were expressed in 2009 chained dollars, according to the BEA.

Given South Carolina’s population of 5.024 million people, its total $32.2 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $6,400 for every resident in the Palmetto State.

South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 4.4% as of March 2018 per YCharts.

South Carolina’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export products represent the highest dollar value in South Carolina global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from South Carolina.

Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.

  1. Aircraft including engines, parts: US$6.3 billion (19.5% of South Carolina’s total exports)
  2. Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $3 billion (9.4%)
  3. Large automobiles (diesel engine): $2.3 billion (7.2%)
  4. Mid-sized automobiles (diesel engine): $1.8 billion (5.6%)
  5. Large automobiles (piston engine): $1.2 billion (3.7%)
  6. Motor vehicle transmissions: $918 million (2.8%)
  7. New rubber tires for specialty vehicles: $627 million (1.9%)
  8. New rubber tires for cars: $499 million (1.5%)
  9. Machinery or mechanical appliance parts: $423 million (1.3%)
  10. Gas turbine parts: $381 million (1.2%)

South Carolina’s top 10 exports accounted for over half (54.1%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.

Large automobiles with piston engines was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 316.1% from 2016.

In second place for improving export sales were parts of machinery or mechanical appliances which rose 100.5%.

South Carolina’s shipments of motor vehicle transmissions posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 33.8%.

The leading decliner among South Carolina top 10 export products was mid-sized automobiles with piston engines. which retreated -32.9% year over year.

More Key Facts

Overall, South Carolina incurred a -$5.3 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2017. That dollar amount reflects a 10.2% year-over-year increase from -$4.8 billion in red ink in 2016.

Another way of saying surplus or deficit is positive or negative net exports. In a nutshell, the term “net exports” quantifies the amount by which foreign spending on a state’s goods or services exceeds or lags that same state’s spending on foreign goods or services.

Below are South Carolina’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2017.

  1. Motor vehicle transmissions: $851 million (2.3% of South Carolina’s total imports)
  2. Uranium U235/plutonium compounds, mixtures: $807 million (2.2%)
  3. Large spark-ignition engines: $778 million (2.1%)
  4. Miscellaneous motor vehicle parts: $609 million (1.6%)
  5. Car tires (rubber, pneumatic): $590 million (1.6%)
  6. Diesel engines: $587 million (1.6%)
  7. Hand tools with electric motors: $586 million (1.6%)
  8. Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $437 million (1.2%)
  9. Textile footwear (rubber/plastic soles): $416 million (1.1%)
  10. Radio navigational aid equipment: $411 million (1.1%)

South Carolina has negative net exports in the international trade of uranium U235/plutonium compounds and mixtures. In turn, these cashflows indicate South Carolina’s competitive disadvantages under this product category.


The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchase 72.8% worth of the total value of products exported from South Carolina during 2017.

  1. China $6.2 billion (19.3% of South Carolina’s total exports)
  2. Canada $3.8 billion (11.7%)
  3. Germany $3.6 billion (11.3%)
  4. Mexico $2.7 billion (8.3%)
  5. United Kingdom $2.3 billion (7.1%)
  6. Japan $1.7 billion (5.2%)
  7. South Korea $1.1 billion (3.3%)
  8. Australia $776 million (2.4%)
  9. Saudi Arabia $737 million (2.3%)
  10. Chile $618 million (1.9%)

South Carolina’s top trade partners in Asia (China, Japan, South Korea) account for 27.8% of the overall value of exported goods from the Palmetto State.


South Carolina Export Companies

Five of South Carolina-based corporations rank among Fortune 1000 Companies in 2017, a list that showcases America’s largest businesses. Selected examples of companies headquartered or operationally based in South Carolina are shown below.

  • ScanSource (security, networking, barcode, technology)
  • Resolute Forest Products (pulp/paper mill)
  • Sonoco Products Co. (packaging products)
  • Domtar Corp (paper, paper goods)

Shown within brackets for each company is a summary of the international trade-related products or services which each business sells.

South Carolina’s capital is Columbia, a city nicknamed “Cola” and “The Capital of Southern Hospitality”.

See also America’s Top 20 Export States, United States Top 10 Exports and Top United States Trade Balances

Research Sources:
Department of Numbers, South Carolina GDP (dollars shown in real terms). Accessed on May 3, 2018, Flags of US States. Accessed on May 3, 2018

Forbes, 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 3, 2018

GeoLounge, Fortune 1000 Companies List for 2016 , Fortune 1000 by State and Place. Accessed on May 3, 2018

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 3, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 3, 2018

United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade (State by 6-Digit HS Code). Accessed on May 3, 2018

United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts: South Carolina. Accessed on May 3, 2018

Wikipedia, South Carolina. Accessed on May 3, 2018

Wikipedia, Categories:Companies based in South Carolina. Accessed on May 3, 2018

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Columbia, United States. Accessed on May 3, 2018

YCharts, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Report. Accessed on May 3, 2018