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$34.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 7.6% uptick from 2017 to 2018 and an 11.7% gain since 2015.

South Carolina is America’s fourteenth-biggest exporter by state behind front-runners including Texas, California, New York and Washington states. The value of South Carolina’s exports equals 2.1% of United States’ overall exported products for 2018.

Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), South Carolina’s exported products represent 14.8% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2018 ($234.4 billion in current dollars based on BEA statistics).

Given South Carolina’s population of 5.084 million people, its total $34.6 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $6,800 for every resident in the Palmetto State.

South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 3.4% at April 2019 down from 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 2018. 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$7.9 billion (22.8% of South Carolina’s total exports)
  2. Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $3.1 billion (8.8%)
  3. Large automobiles (diesel engine): $2.2 billion (6.4%)
  4. Mid-sized automobiles (diesel engine): $1.9 billion (5.5%)
  5. Large automobiles (piston engine): $939 million (2.7%)
  6. Motor vehicle transmissions: $875 million (2.5%)
  7. New rubber tires for specialty vehicles: $829 million (2.4%)
  8. Machinery or mechanical appliance parts: $599 million (1.7%)
  9. Car tires (rubber, pneumatic): $444 million (1.3%)
  10. Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $348 million (1%)

South Carolina’s top 10 exports accounted for over half (55.1%) of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.

Motor vehicle body parts and accessories were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 44.4% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for improving export sales were parts of machinery or mechanical appliances via a 42.6% gain.

South Carolina’s shipments of new rubber tires for specialty vehicles posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 31.8%.

The leading decliner among South Carolina top 10 export products were large automobiles with piston engines. which retreated -21% year over year.

More Key Facts

Overall, South Carolina incurred a -$5.6 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 5.4% year-over-year increase from -$5.3 billion in red ink in 2017.

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 2018.

  1. Uranium U235/plutonium compounds, mixtures: $1.1 billion (2.8% of South Carolina’s total imports)
  2. Motor vehicle transmissions: $747 million (1.9%)
  3. Large spark-ignition engines: $673 million (1.7%)
  4. Miscellaneous motor vehicle parts: $650 million (1.6%)
  5. Hand tools with electric motors: $585 million (1.5%)
  6. Diesel engines: $549 million (1.4%)
  7. Car tires (rubber, pneumatic): $521 million (1.3%)
  8. Motor vehicle body parts, accessories: $475 million (1.2%)
  9. Miscellaneous aircraft parts: $444 million (1.1%)
  10. Electrical boards and panels: $436 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 purchased 71.9% worth of the total value of products exported from South Carolina during 2018.

  1. China $5.6 billion (16.3% of South Carolina’s total exports)
  2. Canada $4 billion (11.5%)
  3. Germany $3.8 billion (10.9%)
  4. Mexico $2.8 billion (8%)
  5. United Kingdom $2.4 billion (7%)
  6. Singapore $1.9 billion (5.4%)
  7. Japan $1.6 billion (4.7%)
  8. United Arab Emirates $1.2 billion (3.4%)
  9. Australia $844 million (2.4%)
  10. Taiwan $794 million (2.3%)

South Carolina’s top trade partners in Asia (China, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan) consume 28.7% of the overall value of exported goods from the Palmetto State. This compares with 19.5% for North American importer in Canada and Mexico.


South Carolina Export Companies

Five of South Carolina-based corporations rank among Fortune 1000 Companies, 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 June 17, 2019, Flags of US States. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Forbes, 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 17, 2019

GeoLounge, Fortune 1000 Companies List for 2016 , Fortune 1000 by State and Place. Accessed on June 17, 2019

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 17, 2019

United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade (State by 6-Digit HS Code). Accessed on June 17, 2019

United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts: South Carolina. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Wikipedia, Categories:Companies based in South Carolina. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Wikipedia, List of U.S. states and territories by GDP. Accessed on June 17, 2019

Wikipedia, South Carolina. Accessed on June 17, 2019

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Columbia, United States. Accessed on June 17, 2019

YCharts, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Report. Accessed on June 17, 2019