Alfredo LÃ³pez Machorro, possessor of an encyclopedic knowledge of Mexico's plastics sector, has stepped down as managing director of the national plastics industry association, Anipac.
His doctors have warned him that, at age 76, the Mexican capital with its polluted air is not the place for him.
As LÃ³pez Machorro contemplates a period of convalescence at the beach, Anipac has named Luis Gerardo Ãlvarez Espinosa, 30, as its new director.
Ãlvarez joins from the Universidad Popular AutÃ³noma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP), where he directed the private university's company development program, with particular emphasis on plastics.
LÃ³pez Machorro's professional relationship with plastics stretches back to 1959. He was a founding partner of Plastiglas de México SA, Latin America's first manufacturer of acrylic laminate, he said.
A graduate of Mexico City's Universidad Iberoamericana, with degrees in industrial chemistry (1956) and chemistry (1957), he also earned a master's in applied thermodynamics (1958) and business administration (1959) at Vanderbilt University.
Moving on from Plastiglas, he served as managing director of several companies, including Polifos SA de CV, part of Grupo Industrias Oxy SA de CV, an Occidental Petroleum Co. subsidiary, which he ran from 1983-2001.
Presidents José LÃ³pez Portillo (1976-82) and Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado (1982-88) both invited him to join their working groups on industry and, in 1983 and 1984, he was president of Anipac, which he helped found in 1962.
The association appointed him managing director in 2004, when he also became plastics section president of Mexican quality-certification company Centro de Normalizacón y Certificacón de Productos AC, a job from which he has also just resigned.
LÃ³pez Machorro said he believes plastics processors in Mexico have suffered from the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement, in force since January 1994, and similar accords with other countries signed by successive Mexican governments.
Since 2003, resin consumption in Mexico has grown between 1.5 percent and 3 percent a year, compared with an average annual growth of 7 percent over many years previously, he said.
[Free-trade] agreements with other countries, promoted by the Mexican government despite offering [Mexico] nothing in return have seriously damaged the [national] plastics industry, he said.
Compared with the 4,200 medium, small and micro-processors that were operating in 2004, barely 3,050 exist today, he added.
According to LÃ³pez Machorro, the industry's growth in Mexico is severely threatened by five factors:
* Raw material shortages and, consequently, price instability.
* Stiffer laws to protect the environment.
* A shortage of credit for, among other things, purchasing fixed assets.
* The possible signing of free-trade agreements with Brazil, Peru and Uruguay, where unfair practices are very common.
* A shortage of innovation and trained designers.
On the positive side, he said that in most raw materials, Mexico is nearing self-sufficiency, spearheaded by a deal between Brazilian petrochemicals giant Braskem SA of São Paulo and Grupo Idesa SA de CV of Mexico City, to build an ethylene cracker and three polymerization plants at a complex in Coatzacoalcos by 2015.
In addition, the professionalism of the sector is a fact. The Universidad AutÃ³noma del Estado de México already offers degree courses in plastics engineering. Other universities are following suit.
Furthermore, several Asian and European countries want to offer courses to midlevel technical students, he said.
The increasing use of plastics in agriculture also presents big opportunities for the sector, LÃ³pez Machorro said, while the federal and local governments are reacting favorably to the recycling industry.