Mexico's January repayment of $1.3 billion it borrowed from the United States last year is a particularly good sign. It is an indication that the country's economic recovery, though still fragile, is better than expected. A year ago, Mexico tottered on the brink of fiscal collapse as the nation found itself wedged in a painful depression. The devaluation of the peso, combined with the twin economic terrors of soaring interest and inflation rates, forced about a third of the country's 2,500 small plastics processors out of business in 1995.
According to Anipac, the Mexican processors group, about 3 percent of Mexico's 400 medium and large plastics firms also shut down as domestic plastics consumption fell 15 percent.
Early last month, Anipac President Francesco Cecchetti forecast a modest recovery for the plastics industry this year - a significant turnabout given that Mexico's plastics processing market shrank as much as 80 percent in some sectors in 1995.
So far, the signs are encouraging. The peso has stabilized, Mexico's stock market is climbing and inflation and interest rates are coming down. That is a decided improvement from a year ago.
APC keeps evolving
The American Plastics Council finally is moving in the right direction on its membership front, adding three corporate members last month. The group previously had been the victim of some embarrassing defections, such as when Procter & Gamble Co. left in 1993.
APC announced Jan. 25 that it now has 27 corporate members - all materials suppliers - thanks to the addition of BFGood-rich Co., Ashland Chemical Co. and Rohm and Haas Co.
The Washington-based trade group is undertaking some significant changes, and has convinced these supplier companies that APC can represent their lobbying and public relations interests.
Although some plastics recyclers and environmentalists may howl, APC's new direction probably means a continued de-emphasis on recycling-related issues. Support for recycling projects should continue to be an APC mission - such as its work in the durable-goods area, which may be a key to expanding the markets for plastic components in the auto and appliance industries.
But suppliers such as Rohm and Haas, BFG and Ashland don't need to join an association that plans simply to beat the recycling drum. The political climate in Washington and many state capitals has changed dramatically in the past two years, and more change is likely in November.
APC needs to adapt to represent industry concerns on a variety of new issues - and these additions to the fold indicate it is doing just that.
In addition, APC needs to continue to involve a key group of nonmembers - plastics processors - in its important work, if it expects legislative audiences to be impressed with the size and importance of the entire plastics industry in the U.S. economy.