Düsseldorf, Germany — The U.S. plastics industry's global trade surplus fell in 2018, pushed down by the strong dollar, but the American industry is faring better than the plastics industry in other major economies.
At least that's the view from one of the main U.S. trade groups, the Plastics Industry Association, in an Oct. 17 news conference at K 2019.
The Washington-based group released a summary of its annual "Global Trends" economic report at the K show. The top line conclusion: The U.S. industry's trade surplus fell from $3 billion in 2017 to $500 million in 2018.
"The reason for that is the U.S. dollar was just so strong in 2018, at the same time the U.S. economy continued to expand," said Perc Pineda, chief economist for the association.
In comments at the news conference, he noted uncertainty surrounding the global economy and the U.S.-China trade conflict and said that could create uncertainties through next year.
"There are uncertainties in the trade relationship between the U.S. and China, and because we're talking about the two largest economies of the world and the reach across the global economy is so broad … we might be seeing more uncertainties in 2020," he said.
"This year's edition of the global plastics trends report reflects some of the challenges of the U.S. manufacturing industry, particularly the plastics industry, because of trade uncertainties," he said.
But both Pineda and Tony Radoszewski, association president and CEO, said the U.S. plastics sector is faring better than the industry in other parts of the world.
"I think if you look at the key takeaways from what Perc is talking about, we are still in a robust environment," Radoszewski said in comments after the news conference.
"If you look at the amount of work that's being done, the continued growth in the industry, even though on a global scale you're seeing countries going into moderation or even recession, we're not. And that's a very exciting place to be at this time," Radoszewski said.
"Are we going through a slowdown? Sure, we're going through a slowdown. But compared to other economies, this is the place to be," he said. "We're the most robust, and in the near term, we're going to continue to see that trend going forward."
The Euromap association, which represents the plastics machinery sector in nine European countries, released a projection during the K show that said global plastics machinery production would drop 10 percent this year and 5 percent next year.
Euromap blamed slower demand in key sectors like automotive, as well as the U.S.-China trade conflict and public questions over plastics sustainability.
But Pineda said U.S. plastics machinery industry production is only projected to shrink 3.3 percent this year and then remain flat in 2020.
"I don't think that the U.S. plastics industry is in a recession right now," Pineda said. "In fact, we continue to see strong demand in the plastics industry, the reason being there is just no other alternative to plastic in terms of packaging and all other things."
The group also held the event to promote the NPE2021 show, to be held May 17-21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla.
They said they expect 55,000 attendees, representing more than $100 billion in purchasing power.