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10/17/2019 | 1 MINUTE READ

Although It's Shrinking, U.S. Maintains Trade Surplus

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This year’s edition of PLASTICS’ Global Trends report boasts a solid $129.1-billion U.S. plastics industry trade volume in 2018. That’s a 9.7% increase in trade volume from the previous year. Exports rose 7.3% and imports increased 12.1% from 2017.


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The U.S. plastics industry continues to maintain a trade surplus, which has been shrinking in recent years. It was $500 million in 2018—significantly lower than the $3.0 billion in 2017. A strong U.S. dollar and sustained U.S. economic expansion—which has increased the economy’s propensity to consume imported goods in addition to the use of imported intermediate goods in U.S. plastics manufacturing—caused imports to rise faster than exports. Apparent consumption of plastics industry goods, calculated as the difference between shipments and exports plus imports, grew by 6.9% in 2018.

Elsewhere in the report the story is often the same as it has been in previous years. Mexico and Canada remain our largest trading partners, and low-cost feedstocks from natural gas continue to give materials producers in the U.S. a cost advantage over producers in other countries.

This year’s report offers more insight to the U.S. plastics industry in evaluating opportunities in the plastics global marketplace. The report is more comprehensive—it captures trade in “other” plastics products. Exports of other plastics deserve some attention. Plastics products that are not officially classified under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) for resins and plastics products (HTS 3901), plastics machinery (HTS 8477), and plastics molds (HTS 8480) are now included in the report. It also includes a deeper dive into the top five leading exports markets for U.S. plastics industry.

For the second year, the report contains the annual Global Plastics Ranking™. Just like last year, the U.S. ranks second with China keeping the top spot and Germany the third. The composition of the top 20 key players in the global plastics trade, however, has changed. Learn more about the Global Trends report.


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