DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY (Oct. 30, 6:05 p.m. EDT) — Double-digit growth in plastics exports and a dip in imports propelled the U.S. plastics industry trade surplus for the first seven months of 2007 to $5.9 billion and past the full-year total for 2006, according to new data from the U.S. Commerce Department.
Spurred by the weak U.S. dollar and increased manufacturing efficiency by American plastics companies, U.S. plastics exports in January through July jumped by 11.7 percent over the same period in 2006, while imports slipped 2.3 percent, Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. President Bill Carteaux said at an Oct. 25 news conference at K 2007 in Dusseldorf.
By comparison, plastics exports in 2006 grew by 12.3 percent over 2005 to $43.4 billion, while imports last year increased by 7.5 percent to $37.6 billion, yielding a surplus of $5.8 billion. That was sharply up from 2005's surplus of $3.8 billion.
Based on 2006 data, Canada and Mexico remained neck and neck as the U.S. industry's largest plastics markets for resins, products, machinery and molds, each accounting for 24 percent of U.S. exports, while China moved into third place at 6 percent. But China's position as the top exporter of plastic components and finished goods to the United States continued to widen the U.S. trade deficit in that sector to about $5 billion last year.
China, at 20 percent, ranks as America's No. 2 import source overall, behind Canada at 33 percent. Canada is the leading exporter to the U.S. of resin, machinery and molds.
Citing the recently released 2006 statistics, Carteaux noted that the U.S. plastics industry employs 1.1 million workers in 18,585 facilities nationwide and shipped $379 billion worth of plastics goods last year, up from $341 billion in 2005. While the number of plastics companies and employees has declined since 2000, the U.S. plastics industry since 1980 has continued to outperform the nation's manufacturing sector as a whole in terms of employment growth, real shipments, real value added, and productivity.
Annual apparent consumption of plastics (U.S. shipments plus imports, minus exports) rose 7.6 percent last year to about $275 billion, which Carteaux said makes the United States “the single-largest national plastics market on earth.” Plastic components and finished products accounted for slightly more than $200 billion of that total, with resins, machinery and molds making up the rest.