US plastics sector rises in first half as trade deficit increases


The US plastics industry saw increased trading in the first six months of this year – but with imports far exceeding exports.


Figures in the Plastics Industry Association’s Global Trends report reveal that trading volume exports plus imports – rose by nearly 28% for the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2020.


In this period, exports have risen by 21% and imports by nearly 35%. This turned the trade balance (exports minus imports) from a deficit of US$400 million in H1 2020 to one of US$4.5 billion in H1 2021.


The figures encompass all types of plastics-related trade, including resins, finished parts, machinery and moulds.


Resin exports rose nearly 23% in the first six months of 2021, while imports rose by almost 35%. This boosted the USA’s resin trade surplus by 13%. The trade deficit in finished plastics products rose by nearly 60% at the same time.


Machinery exports increased 12% in the first half of 2021, while imports grew by nearly 22%. The US trade deficit in machinery rose by almost 28%.


“While US plastics industry trade volume rose in the first six months of 2021, it still has a trade deficit,” said Perc Pineda, chief economist at the association. “The plastics industry outside the US will continue to compete for overseas markets as well as for their own domestic markets.”


The Global Trends report also includes figures for 2020 as a whole. Here, the entire industry had a trade deficit of US$5.5bn. However, it had a trade surplus of nearly US$19bn in resin including a US$3bn resin surplus with China.


Mexico and Canada remained the US plastics industry’s largest export markets. In 2020, the industry exported nearly $14bn to Mexico and US$12bn to Canada. The trade surplus with Mexico was more than US$8bn.


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