US plastic industry exports increased 11.8% in 2022, while imports increased 7.2%, bringing plastic trade deficit to US$7.4B; global plastics trade volume estimated at US$1.7T, led by China, US and Germany: Plastics Industry Association

Sample article from our Chemicals Industry

November 9, 2023 (press release) –

“According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), global trade volume expanded by 2.7% in 2022. The remarkable 9.7% growth in the U.S. plastics industry’s trade volume for 2022, surpassing global merchandise trade, underscores the strong global demand for plastics,” said Dr. Perc Pineda, PhD, PLASTICS’ Chief Economist.

Mexico City, Mexico— The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) released its annual Global Trends report today during a press briefing and keynote address at PLASTIMAGEN ® MÉXICO.

“According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), global trade volume expanded by 2.7% in 2022. The remarkable 9.7% growth in the U.S. plastics industry’s trade volume for 2022, surpassing global merchandise trade, underscores the strong global demand for plastics,” said Dr. Perc Pineda, PhD, PLASTICS’ Chief Economist.

“As we look ahead to 2023, the WTO anticipates a 0.8% increase in world merchandise trade volume. Data from the first half of this year indicates a decline in plastics trade volume compared to the same period last year. However, during this time, the U.S. trade balance shifted from a deficit (-$5.2 billion) to a surplus ($1.0 billion). It would not be surprising to see the U.S. plastics industry’s trade volume in 2023 once again outpacing the growth in total global merchandise volume,” Pineda added.

“The decelerating economic growth in China may pose a challenge for the U.S. plastics industry, given that China ranks as the third-largest export market for U.S. plastics. Although the U.S. maintains an overall trade deficit with China in the plastics sector, it’s worth noting that the U.S. enjoys a $3.1 billion trade surplus in resin, making it the second-largest country in terms of resin trade surplus, trailing only Mexico,” said Pineda.

“The U.S. plastics industry remaining a key player in the global plastics trade shows the importance of our industry and the essential nature of plastics,” said PLASTICS President and CEO, Matt Seaholm. “Our members continue to innovate and invest in new ways to make products even better and more sustainable, while continuing to provide essential materials that improve lives across the globe.”

Among the highlights found in the Global Trends report:

  • U.S. plastics industry exports rose 11.8% and imports rose 7.2%. The overall plastics trade deficit fell to $7.4 billion in 2022 from $10.0 billion in 2021 as the global economy continued to recover from the pandemic in 2020.
  • According to the Global Trends, the apparent consumption of plastics industry goods in the U.S., an indicator of demand, increased 13.7% to $393.3 billion, up from $345.9 billion in 2021, which underscores the benefits that plastics and plastics products on the economy.
  • Global plastics trade volume is estimated to have reached $1.7 trillion with China, the United States, and Germany ranked the top three players in the global plastics trade, based on PLASTICS’ annual Global Plastics Ranking®. 
  • The U.S. plastics industry had its largest trade surplus with Mexico of $11.0 billion, followed by Belgium ($2.9 billion), Brazil ($2.4 billion), the Netherlands ($881 million), and Singapore ($854 million).

“The trade connections among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are robust and deeply embedded, largely owing to the United States-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement. These three nations stand out as key trade partners across the entire spectrum of the plastics industry, evident from the substantial $258.8 billion trade volume in resin and plastics products in 2022,” concluded Pineda.

Interested parties worldwide will find the Global Trends report and its accompanying dataset provide a comprehensive account of U.S. plastics exports and imports worldwide in each of the four categories of the plastics industry – resin, products, machinery and molds. The report is also the only plastics trade report that includes trade analysis outlining the movement of resins and plastics that are embedded in goods that the U.S. both exports and imports.

An executive summary and the full PLASTICS’ Global Trends report is available to Plastics Industry Association members online at: https://www.plasticsindustry.org/data-report/global-trends-2023

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) is the only organization that supports the entire plastics supply chain, including Equipment Suppliers, Material Suppliers, Processors, and Recyclers, representing over one million workers in our $548 billion U.S. industry. PLASTICS advances the priorities of our members who are dedicated to investing in technologies that improve capabilities and advances in recycling and sustainability and providing essential products that allow for the protection and safety of our lives. Since 1937, PLASTICS has been working to make its members, and the seventh largest U.S. manufacturing industry, more globally competitive while supporting circularity through educational initiatives, industry-leading insights and events, convening opportunities and policy advocacy, including the largest plastics trade show in the Americas, NPE2024: The Plastics Show.

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