President-elect Donald Trump's policies should generally bring a lot of opportunities for plastics companies, but the industry also needs to try to block Trump's stated plans to “unwind” trade agreements, according to the head of the U.S. plastic sector's largest trade association.
In a Jan. 11 industry briefing, the head of the Washington-based Plastics Industry Association, Bill Carteaux, said the Trump administration has a large potential upside for manufacturers, particularly in tax and regulatory policy.
But Carteaux also noted concern over Trump's statements calling for big changes in trade policy, saying that the plastics industry currently has a $7.1 billion trade surplus and benefits from trade deals.
“We will continue to work on tax reform with items that benefit the industry, like enhancing the R&D tax credit we helped make permanent at the end of 2015, at the same time fighting a rear-guard action on trade issues, like doing our best to keep the White House from unwinding NAFTA or other things,” Carteaux said.
“The outlook is positive but it's not without risks,” he said.
Carteaux spoke in a briefing to release the association's latest economic study of the U.S. plastics industry, which presented a generally positive outlook for what is the third-largest manufacturing sector in the U.S., after the oil and gas extraction and automobiles. Carteaux's comments are not the first from the petrochemical industry to broadly support trade, in reaction to the president-elect.
In a statement after the election, the American Chemistry Council said trade would be very important to “unlock potential” from $175 billion in new shale gas-related investments in the U.S. planned by the chemical industry, which is one of the country's largest exporting industries.
As well, the German plastics machinery association VDMA put out an unusual statement in late November praising trade deals and decrying protectionism, which the association said was in reaction to President-elect Trump's comments.
In broader terms, though, Carteaux said the manufacturing industry is hearing “very positive things” in Washington.
“I think from an overarching standpoint, from all indications, is this will be a much more business friendly administration,” he said. “One of the single biggest areas we should see some immediate relief is from some of the regulations that have stifled our industry and curtailed some of the growth.”