Global Trends Report US Plastics Industry Recovers from 2020 Pandemic Slump

Editor: Alexander Stark

USA — The Plastics Industry Association released its annual Global Trends report at the 27th Fakuma International trade fair for plastics processing. The report, which analyses trade data from all of 2020 and the first six months of 2021, paints a complex but promising portrait of the US plastics industry in the international market.

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In 2020, total US plastics industry exports fell by 8.2 percent.
In 2020, total US plastics industry exports fell by 8.2 percent.
(Source: Public Domain / Pixabay )

The global trends report and its accompanying dataset provides a comprehensive account of US plastics exports to and imports from around the world in each of the four categories of the plastics industry — resin, products, machinery and molds.

According to the report, Mexico and Canada remained the US plastics industry’s largest export markets. In 2020, the industry exported $ 13.7 billion to Mexico and $ 11.7 billion to Canada, maintaining its largest trade surplus — $ 8.2 billion — with Mexico.

The coronavirus pandemic caused the merchandise trade to decline. In 2020, total US plastics industry exports fell 8.2 percent, and imports were 1.8 percent above 2019.

The report found that the US plastics industry had a trade deficit of $ 5.5 billion last year. For many years, the plastics industry enjoyed a trade surplus, which in 2019 was $727 million. Last year, the US had an $ 18.6 billion surplus in resin. The U.S. plastics industry had a $ 15.3 billion deficit with China — the third-largest export market of the US plastics industry. However, the US had a $ 3.0 billion trade surplus with China with resin. China is still the world’s largest resin buyer and a large importer of US-produced resins.

The 2021 Global Trends report also explores a broader international view of plastics, covering production, consumption and more details of important trading partners for the US. It also discusses apparent consumption, a broad measure of the domestic market size. US apparent consumption of plastic products fell marginally by 0.1 percent to $ 288.4 billion in 2020.

“Although the merchandise trade outlook is much brighter this year, uncertainties remain and depend largely on global economic recovery. While the U.S. plastics industry trade volume rose 27.9 percent in the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, it still has a plastics trade deficit,” said Plastics Chief Economist Perc Pineda, PhD.

Canada and Mexico are expected to remain the two largest export markets and are also the top sources of US plastics imports. Proximity matters. The manufacturing sector’s supply chain in these countries was strengthened with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). The updated free trade pact, United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), should further enhance trade among the three countries, which is important particularly as global manufacturing is experiencing supply chain difficulties.

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