In the short term, the combination of 25 percent U.S. tariffs on Chinese plastics equipment, which started July 6, and the favorable business reaction to President Donald Trump's policies are fueling stateside demand for Taiwanese production equipment, said Alan Wang, chairman of TAMI's plastic and rubber machinery committee.
"Our machinery sales to the United States actually have increased," he said.
But executives fretted over longer-term impacts if the trade war dampens demand for new equipment, particularly in China, which is Taiwan's largest export market for plastics equipment.
Wang noted that the mainland purchasing managers' index, a leading reflection of corporate confidence, took an ominous dip in May and June.
"[In] the long term, we think that [the trade dispute] might affect the willingness to invest," he said. Last year, Taiwan supplied almost five times as much plastics equipment to China as it did to the United States, TAMI said.
In the plastics world, Taiwan definitely punches above its weight. The small island with a population the size of Texas is the world's sixth-biggest exporter of plastics machinery, ranking behind only Germany, China, Japan, Italy and the United States.
Exports of Taiwanese plastics and rubber machinery jumped 12.8 percent last year to $1.17 billion, said TAMI Chairman Alex Ko.
Sales to mainland China grew a healthy 27 percent to $247.61 million, accounting for 21 percent of Taiwanese plastics machinery exports.
Taiwan has a strong focus on Asian developing markets. Sales to its second-biggest export market, Vietnam, edged up 2.3 percent to $139.5 million, followed by India, up 44 percent to $91.69 million.
Sales continued to grow in the first five months of this year, Ko said. China and Hong Kong imported $97.93 million in Taiwanese machinery, up 2.3 percent from the year-before period, followed by Indonesia and Thailand. But sales to India have dropped a sharp 24.8 percent.
Still, TAMI President Cheng-Ching Wang called on the industry to make a more concentrated effort to penetrate markets in the Middle East, Africa, South America and Eastern and Central Europe. Altogether, they represent less than 10 percent of Taiwan's exports, Wang said.
The candid trade-war assessments weren't the only geopolitical notes to creep into the usually apolitical trade-show talk.
Michael Wang, general manager of Chen Hsong Machinery Taiwan Co. Ltd. and vice chair of TAMI's plastic and rubber machinery committee, said his firm's once-thriving sales to Iran have vanished in the wake of the Trump administration's re-imposition of sanctions on Iran.
The trade show, which says it's Asia's third-largest plastics show behind Chinaplas and Japan's IPF, also will include a focus on beefing up Taiwan's Industry 4.0 next-generation manufacturing capabilities, executives said, although they acknowledged more research needs to be done locally.
"Take my company, Fong Kee, for example. Most of our sensors for our blow molding machines are imported," Wei said. "This is an area where we really need to catch up."