Plastics industry leaders in Brazil are focused on increasing export sales.
Since 2001, the Brazilian Plastics Industry Association (Abiplast) has invested efforts toward such ends by creating an agency dedicated to help increase the sector's competitiveness, as well as lobby activities with the Ministry of Industry and Development of former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Efforts continue with the recent involvement of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva's government - President Lula even attended the Brasilplast 2003 opening ceremony - but results are yet to appear.
In 2002, exports of manufactured plastic products totaled $495 million and the trade deficit was $377 million. In 2001, exports were $564 million, while the deficit was $298 million.
``We can't change the scenario overnight, but we are improving the ways on how to get there,'' said Abiplast President Merheg Cachum. One of the new strategies is the inclusion of resin manufacturers as partners in Abiplast's increasing exports program, which is called Export Plastic.
At first, the goal was to create a trade surplus of $500 million in manufactured plastics products by 2008. Now leaders have broadened the scope: to eliminate the average annual deficit of $1 billion in the plastics chain (including both resins and manufactured products) and achieve a trade surplus of $800 million in up to 10 years.
``We are looking for more integration in the entire plastics products chain. To be competitive, we need scale and also resin prices that allow us to enter the export market,'' Cachum said.
``We are not asking for subsidies, but instead, better conditions, such as differentiated price mechanisms for exports - less bureaucratic than those existing today and that truly function. Otherwise, resin makers will continue exporting resin in the spot market, at the lowest prices worldwide.''
In the resin field, industry representatives are not open to comment on price issues.
``Resins are commodities and the prices charged in Brazil are the same as those used around the world,'' said Jose Ricardo Roriz Coelho, president of the resin producers' trade association of the state of Sao Paulo, Siresp.
According to Coelho, the resin sector's commitment to increase plastic manufactured products made in Brazil includes supplying of resin at competitive prices and with the same quality as demanded by the international market. Suppliers also will help develop standards to ensure the quality of made-in-Brazil plastic manufactured products; identify niches with the best potential; assistance in negotiating better warehousing and transportation costs for export products; and making the network of resin industry traders available to sell Brazilian products.
``Exporting is creativity. In order to enter the external market it is necessary that you have something that sets you apart from the competition, be it a better or cheaper product, and for such, the processing industry will need to invest,'' he said.
According to Abiplast's estimates, Brazil's plastics molding sector possesses 45,000 machines, with more than half of them more than 10 years old.
``The sector agrees unanimously that, in order to gain export competitiveness, we need to update our industry,'' Cachum said.