Taylor added that ongoing use of shale gas as an affordable feedstock has been “a huge advantage” for U.S. resin makers. Overall economic growth is expected to remain around 2 percent in 2017 and has been “a bit anemic and sporadic,” according to Taylor.
But he pointed out that U.S. plastics firms have seen growth in such key markets as packaging, automotive, health care and building and construction.
“A declining trade balance in this case is the sign of a growing U.S. economy,” SPI President and CEO Bill Carteaux said in a news release. “A stronger dollar makes sales more costly for buyers abroad, and a decline in natural gas and oil prices have put downward pressure on the price of plastic materials.”
He added that the report “highlights growth in the U.S. plastics industry, and shows its continued leadership in helping to make America the world's leading manufacturing market.”
Apparent consumption of plastics in the United States — defined as shipments minus export plus imports — increased to a historic high of $295.4 billion in 2015, according to the report.
“The U.S. plastics industry's trade surplus stands in stark contrast to American manufacturing as a whole and many individual manufacturing segments, which have posted deficits,” officials said in the release.
“To maintain a surplus as long as we have is a huge accomplishment,” Taylor added in a Sept. 28 interview in Chicago. Washington-based SPI released 2016 Global Business Trends at Global Plastics Summit 2016, a conference co-hosted by SPI and the IHS Chemical consulting firm, Sept. 28-30 in Chicago.
The report also comments on the turbulent politics of the U.S. Presidential election.
“Six weeks after this report is released, voters in the United States will head to the polls to determine who will lead the nation for the next four years,” officials said in the report. “American trade policy and, indeed, the very concept of international trade and its benefits to the U.S. economy, have been under attack throughout this campaign.
“But no matter which candidate wins the presidency, the U.S. plastics industry, which annually contributes $427 billion to the U.S. economy and employs nearly 1 million Americans, believes that opening up new markets and rejecting calls for the U.S. to isolate itself economically (particularly from its biggest trading partners) should be major priorities for the next president.”
Other highlights from the report include:
• Mexico and Canada remain the U.S. plastics industry's largest export markets. $15.8 billion in exports went to Mexico in 2015, while exports worth $12.1 billion went to Canada in 2015. The NAFTA trade area represents 47.2 percent of the $59.1 billion of goods exported by the U.S. plastics industry in 2015.
• The United States enjoyed its largest trade surplus in 2015 with Mexico — $11 billion.
• The dollar value of the industry's trade surplus in resins declined in 2015, but on a real tonnage basis, the resin surplus increased 2.7 percent over 2014.