The U.S. plastics industry continued to have a trade surplus in 2016, even though the size of that surplus declined from the previous year.
The industry's $4.7 billion surplus for 2016 was down from the $7.1 billion surplus posted in 2015, according to the 2017 Global Trends report published by the Plastics Industry Association.
As in previous years, the resin sector accounted for the entirety of the U.S. industry's trade surplus. The resin market had a surplus of $16.5 billion in 2016, while plastic products had a deficit of $9 billion, mold making had a deficit of $1.2 billion and machinery had a deficit of $1.7 billion.
The resin trade surplus was smaller than it was in 2015, while the industry's deficits in plastics products, mold making and machinery each were larger than they were in the previous year.
The U.S. plastics industry's trade surplus has stood now for more than two decades, officials said in a news release, adding that the fact that the industry maintains its surplus "makes it something of an anomaly among similarly situated manufacturing sectors."
A strengthening U.S. economy that depends heavily on imports to meet demand for plastics products was the primary cause for the decline in the trade surplus, according to the report.
The report also noted that in 2016, apparent consumption of plastics industry goods — a measure of overall demand — increased in the United States by 1.8 percent, from $284 billion to $289 billion in 2016.
The U.S. plastics industry "maintains its trade surplus due to its strong cost position as a plastic materials supplier, as well as its strong trade relationships with other countries — particularly our neighbors to the north and south," Plastics Industry Association Chief Economist Perc Pineda said in the release.
On a country-by-country basis, Mexico and Canada continue to be the largest and second-largest export markets for the U.S. plastics industry, respectively. Pineda added that the report "shows that maintaining the strength of this continental relationship, and taking care with regard to the renegotiation of NAFTA, are both paramount to the plastics industry's continued ability to grow and compete globally."