China's trade surplus hit a new high of $14.5 billion in June, but it's a different story for plastics machinery.
While fostering exports of plastics machinery and molds, as showcased in June at NPE 2006 in Chicago, China remains a net importer of plastics machinery, with foreign-brand presses dominating the market.
``The money spent on imported machines is more than three times the export sales,'' said Dai Zhongrao, executive vice director-in-chief of the Beijing-based China Plastic Machine Industry Association.
On a dollar basis, imports have been growing 26.1 percent annually for the past five years.
For dies and molds, despite the active role of Chinese toolmakers in global outsourcing, exports in 2005 amounted to only half of the $1.1 billion in imports.
China exported about $800 million of plastics machinery in 2005. Although the figure skyrocketed by 66.9 percent per year, Dai said, ``It started low, so the actual amount is still pretty small.''
Thanks to Chinese plastics processors' growth rate of twice the gross domestic product, machinery demand continues to grow strongly. Machinery output values more than doubled in the past five years, averaging 23.3 percent.
About 1,000 Chinese enterprises make plastics machinery, Dai said, but more than 60 percent of them are quite small.
``The Chinese plastic machinery industry still lags behind from meeting the needs of the rapidly growing national economy,'' Dai said.
He believes that pretty soon, domestic press makers will catch up and divide the market evenly with foreign companies.
Presses represent more than half of the entire industry's production and sales. Light industry, the firm's largest end market, includes consumer products, apparel, footwear, toys and sporting goods, followed by packaging, agricultural, electrical/electronics, construction and automotive.
China's total output for dies and molds was valued at 24 billion yuan ($3.01 billion) in 2005, up an average of 17.4 percent in each of the past five years.