PLASTICS Report: U.S. Plastics Industry Trade Improves in 2021 After 2020 Pandemic Slump

October 12, 2021
plastics engineers examining machine

Global Trends Report Underscores U.S. Plastics Industry’s Significance in Global Plastics Trades

WASHINGTON, DC – The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) released its annual Global Trends report today at the 27th Fakuma International trade fair for plastics processing. The report, which analyzes trade data from all of 2020 and the first six months of 2021, paints a complex but promising portrait of the U.S. plastics industry in the international market.

The 2021 Global Trends report is available for PLASTICS members and non-members to download here.

For those around the world interested in the American plastics market, the global trends report and its accompanying dataset provides a comprehensive account of U.S. plastics exports to and imports from around the world in each of the four categories of the plastics industry – resin, products, machinery and molds.

According to the report, Mexico and Canada remained the U.S. plastics industry’s largest export markets. In 2020, the industry exported $13.7 billion to Mexico and $11.7 billion to Canada, maintaining its largest trade surplus—$8.2 billion—with Mexico.

“The 2021 Global Trends report shows that the U.S. plastics industry remains a major player in world trade, due to the versatility of the material and high demand for it,” said PLASTICS President and CEO Tony Radoszewski. “Exports generate jobs, and the U.S. plastics industry continues to create jobs for the U.S. economy. For the fourth year, our Global Plastics RankingTM also provides insights for plastics companies exploring export market opportunities.”

The coronavirus pandemic caused the merchandise trade to decline. In 2020, total U.S. plastics industry exports fell 8.2%, and imports were 1.8% above 2019.

The report found that the U.S. plastics industry had a trade deficit of $5.5 billion last year. For many years, the plastics industry enjoyed a trade surplus, which in 2019 was $727 million.  Last year, the U.S. had an $18.6 billion surplus in resin. The U.S. plastics industry had a $15.3 billion deficit with China—the third-largest export market of the U.S. plastics industry. However, the U.S. had a $3.0 billion trade surplus with China with resin. China is still the world’s largest resin buyer and a large importer of U.S.-produced resins.

The 2021 Global Trends report also explores a broader international view of plastics, covering production, consumption and more details of important trading partners for the U.S. It also discusses apparent consumption, a broad measure of the domestic market size. U.S. apparent consumption of plastic products fell marginally by 0.1% to $288.4 billion in 2020.

“Although the merchandise trade outlook is much brighter this year, uncertainties remain and depend largely on global economic recovery. While the U.S. plastics industry trade volume rose 27.9% in the first six months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, it still has a plastics trade deficit,” said PLASTICS Chief Economist Perc Pineda, PhD “The large and growing plastics industry outside the U.S. will continue to compete with the U.S. for overseas markets as well as for their own domestic markets.”

Canada and Mexico will continue to be the two largest export markets and are also the top sources of U.S. plastics imports. Proximity matters. The manufacturing sector’s supply chain in these countries was strengthened with the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The updated free trade pact, United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), should further enhance trade among the three countries, which is important particularly as global manufacturing is experiencing supply chain difficulties

The 2021 complete Global Trends report is available to download for free for members and is available for purchase to non-members here

The executive summary is available here.

About Plastics Industry Association

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) is the only organization that supports the entire plastics supply chain, representing nearly one million workers in the $432 billion U.S. industry. Since 1937, PLASTICS has been working to make its members and the industry more globally competitive while advancing recycling and sustainability. To learn more about PLASTICS’ education initiatives, industry-leading insights and events, networking opportunities and policy advocacy and the largest plastics trade show in the Americas, NPE: The Plastics Show, visit Connect with PLASTICS on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.