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Plastics Industry Association's trend report highlights strong global demand for plastics

A hand holds a small pile of shredded plastic
According to the report, the apparent consumption of plastics industry goods in the U.S. increased by 13.7 percent. Adobe Stock Images

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) has released its Global Trends 2023 report.

"According to the World Trade Organization (WTO), global trade volume expanded by 2.7 percent in 2022. The remarkable 9.7 percent 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 percent increase in world merchandise trade volume," continues Pineda. "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.

"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.

"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."

Highlights of the Global Trends report

  • U.S. plastics industry exports rose 11.8 percent and imports rose 7.2 percent. 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 Global Trends, the apparent consumption of plastics industry goods in the U.S., an indicator of demand, increased 13.7 percent to $393.3 billion, up from $345.9 billion in 2021, which underscores the benefits that plastics and plastics products have 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 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," said Pineda.
  • The Global Trends report and its dataset provide an account of U.S. plastics exports and imports worldwide in each of the four categories of the plastics industry: resin, products, machinery, and moulds.

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