News Release

ITP’s World Trade Annual Reviews of 2011 are detailed analyses of trade between countries and regions in 2011. The Reviews are based on import/export statistics from 60 countries, representing nearly all of the world’s trade volume.ITP measures trade volume as the sum of imports into all countries, which equals exports from all countries, as each import has a corresponding export. As the volume of product traded globally is a direct measure of a significant part of apparent demand for the widely traded products in the Reviews, percentage changes in trade volume from year to year generally reflect actual changes in demand. This News Release summarizes a few of the trends in the Reviews, which cover the following individual products:


Polyolefins Reviews
Ethylene Copolymers
Propylene Copolymers

Other Polymers Reviews

Vinyls Reviews

Styrenics Reviews

Feedstocks Reviews

Glycols Reviews


POLYOLEFINS – LDPE, LLDPE, HDPE, Ethylene Copolymers, Polypropylene, Propylene Copolymers and EVA

Trends in global trade volume in 2011 were mixed: up 3%-5% for LDPE, HDPE, polypropylene and propylene copolymers; up 14% for ethylene copolymers; and down 1% for LLDPE and 3% for EVA. Only two of the polyolefins, HDPE and ethylene copolymers, had slightly higher growth in global trade volume in 2011 than in 2010, each up one percentage point. Trade in the other polyolefins either grew at a lower rate than in 2010, or contracted, impacted by generally weaker demand in Asia-Pacific, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Latin America, although there were exceptions, depending on the polymer and the region.

To put 2011 into historical perspective it is helpful to review some of the trends in 2009 and 2010, two very different years. In 2009, global trade volume had expanded by 3%-13%, with most of the polyolefins up around 8%.  A major factor that year was the unprecedented increase in China’s imports, volumes soaring 39%-138%. This massive surge, plus higher imports also into other Asia-Pacific countries, offset the depressed demand that was evident elsewhere after the financial crisis of 2008.  Demand in the Asia-Pacific region pulled in supplies from other regions. Shipments of polyolefins visible from the Middle East to Asia-Pacific totaled 4 million tons, up over 70%. Western Europe and North America supplied another 4.3 million tons, and substantial volumes were also provided by Eastern Europe and Latin America, both up sharply from 2008.

In 2010, even stronger growth was apparent from the 6%-15% increase in global trade volumes, with all the polyolefins except HDPE and polypropylene toward the upper end of the range. China’s imports slowed, but this was more than offset by gains in other Asia-Pacific markets plus a rebound in demand in other regions, especially Western and Eastern Europe.  China’s imports in 2010 of HDPE, EVA and polypropylene fell 5%-9%; propylene copolymers imports were flat; LDPE rose 3%; LLDPE rose 13%; and smaller volume ethylene copolymers grew 25%. Despite the slowdown in China, Middle East polyolefin exports to Asia-Pacific increased about 70% for the second year in a row, to 6.8 million tons.  Also up sharply in 2010 were Middle East exports of several polyolefins to Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Exports from other regions to Asia-Pacific, however, fell: Western Europe, down 9%; North America, down 26%; Eastern Europe and Latin America, also much lower.

Weaker demand in 2011 in Asia-Pacific, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Latin America was apparent from lower growth figures for intra-regional trade and imports for most of the polyolefins. Among the exceptions: Africa was a growth import market for polypropylene and LDPE; in Asia-Pacific, growth rates increased on imports of polypropylene, up 10%, and EVA, up 14%, both up from declines of around 5% in the prior year. Interestingly, growth rates in 2011 on imports into China of most of the polyolefins actually improved versus 2010, either increasing or becoming less negative: LDPE, up 6%; HDPE, up 1%; propylene copolymers, up 11%; EVA, up 5%; polypropylene, down 2%; ethylene copolymers up 22%.  LLDPE imports fell 1%, noting, however, the rise in imports into China of ethylene copolymers, analogous to the faster rate of expansion in China’s propylene copolymer imports as compared with polypropylene homopolymer imports in recent years.

Middle East polyolefin exports to Asia-Pacific expanded in 2011, but at a slower rate than in the prior two years, up 20%, to 8.1 million tons. Eastern Europe continued to be a strong growth export destination for most Middle East polyolefins. Middle East exports of LLDPE to Western Europe jumped 48% and shipments of polypropylene, propylene copolymers and ethylene copolymers to the region also were up substantially from 2010.

A striking change in 2011 was the surge in exports out of Asia-Pacific: LDPE, up 32%; LLDPE, 54%; HDPE, 52%; polypropylene, 34%. The region exported over 2 million tons to other regions, with large percentage increases on shipments to Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Latin America, and, for polypropylene, also to Africa. South Korea, India and Thailand were major exporters, with other countries also shipping sizeable volumes. Latin America’s exports, 0.8 million tons, also were much higher, Western Europe and Asia-Pacific top destinations.

STYRENICS –Polystyrene – expandable and non-expandable, ABS, SAN and Styrene.

Non-expandable polystyrene global trade volume was 3.7 million tons in 2011, down 5% from the prior year on a drop in demand in all regions except Eastern Europe and Africa. In 2010, global trade had increased 2%. Key trends in 2011: lower intra-regional trade in Asia-Pacific, Western and Eastern Europe and North America; increased imports into Western Europe, up 22%, Eastern Europe, up 12%, and Africa, up 7%; reduced imports into Latin America and Middle East. Asia-Pacific exports grew 22% on gains to all regions except the Middle East.

Global trade in expandable polystyrene rose 5% in 2011, to 2.2 million tons, versus a 14% gain in the prior year. Key trends:  slightly higher intra-regional trade in Western Europe and Asia-Pacific; higher imports into Western Europe, up 20%, Eastern Europe, up 8%, Latin America, up 18%, and Middle East, up 1%. Exports from Western Europe rose 1%, primarily on shipments to Eastern Europe. Latin America’s exports were up 5% on North American trade; Asia-Pacific exports rose 8% on higher volumes to all regions except Africa and North America.

Global trade in ABS fell 11% in 2011, to 4.4 million tons, versus a gain of 7% in the prior year. Weak demand was evident in every world region. Key trade trends: reduced intra-regional trade in Asia-Pacific and Western Europe; lower imports into every world region except Eastern Europe, which was unchanged; lower exports out of Asia-Pacific, Western Europe, North America and Latin America.

SAN trade was down 4%, to 0.5 million tons, compared with a 6% increase in 2010. Key trends: lower intra-regional trade in Asia-Pacific; moderately higher intra-regional trade in Western Europe; lower imports into Western Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific; a 17% increase in imports into Eastern Europe; a 12% increase in exports out of Asia-Pacific on polymer shipped worldwide but with the largest percentage gains to Europe.

Weak demand for derivatives impacted styrene global trade, which dropped 5% in 2011, to 10.5 million tons, off from a 9% gain in the prior year. Key negative trends included reduced intra-regional trade in Western Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America and lower imports into Western Europe and Latin America. Partly offsetting these negatives were a 7% increase in Asia-Pacific imports, monomer mainly from the Middle East followed by North America, and an 11% rise in Eastern Europe’s imports, on supplies from Western Europe and the Middle East.


PVC global trade volume in 2011 was unchanged at 11.4 million tons, versus a 9% increase in 2010. Trends for individual regions were mixed. Reduced PVC demand was evident in Asia-Pacific and Western Europe, both regions experiencing contractions in intra-regional trade and lower imports. Offsetting these negative factors were higher imports into Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and, with the largest percentage gains, Latin America, up 22%, and Africa, up 15%. North America exported 2.3 million tons, up 9% on gains to Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. (North America’s exports in 2010 had expanded 28%.) Western Europe exported 1.4 million tons, up 4% mainly on shipments to Eastern Europe. PVC exports from Asia-Pacific rose 5%, Africa and Latin America growth destinations. China’s imports were down 13%; exports surged 72%.

EDC trade fell 6% in 2011, to 2.3 million tons, which followed a similar percentage decline in 2010. Asia-Pacific imported 1.15 million tons, down 9%, supplied mainly from North America, with large volumes also from the Middle East and Western Europe. Asia-Pacific intra-regional trade fell 5%, to 0.6 million tons; intra-regional trade in Western Europe expanded 24%, to 0.5 million tons.

VCM trade posted a 1% gain in 2011, to 3.6 million tons, versus no change in 2010. Key factors were: 17% lower intra-regional trade in Asia-Pacific; moderately higher intra-regional trade in Western Europe and North America; a 22% rise in imports into Latin America, to 0.7 million tons, all of which was from North America; and, a 64% increase in Asia-Pacific imports, to 0.4 million tons, on monomer from North America and the Middle East.

Other POLYMERS – Polyacetals, Polycarbonates and PET

Polyacetals global trade was down 1% in 2011, from a 39% jump in the prior year.  Reduced intra-regional trade in Western Europe, down 8%, and Asia-Pacific, down 4%, were key negative factors. These were partly offset by much higher imports into Western Europe from Asia-Pacific and North America and into Eastern Europe from Asia-Pacific, and, slightly higher imports into Asia-Pacific from both North America and Western Europe.

Polycarbonates global trade volume was down 5% in 2011, versus a 14% increase in 2010. Asia-Pacific intra-regional trade contracted by 8% in 2011 and imports into the region rose only 1%, a steep drop from the 26% gain in the prior year. The region’s imports from North America rose 13% but supplies from Western Europe were down 19%. Also of note were nearly 60,000 tons imported from the Middle East, up 345%. Eastern Europe continued as a growth market, imports up 14%; Latin America’s imports fell 18%. Exports from Western Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific each fell by 4%-8%.

PET global trade in 2011 was down 1%, from a 6% gain in the prior year. Weak demand in Western Europe was apparent from the 1% drop in the region’s intra-regional trade and the 15% drop in imports. Imports into Eastern Europe, the world’s largest market, rose only 1%, to 1.1 million tons. Imports into Africa, North America and Latin America increased 8%-11%. Exports from Asia-Pacific, the world’s largest exporting region, grew 1% but shipments from other exporting regions declined, with the exception of Latin America which was up 26%.


Global trade in mono-ethylene glycol expanded 5% in 2011, to 13.7 million tons, after an increase of 18% in 2010. DEG trade expanded 6%, to 1.3 million tons. Middle East exports of MEG increased 9% in 2011, on 11% higher volumes to Asia-Pacific, partly offset by declines of 1%-5% to Western Europe, North America and Eastern Europe.  North America’s MEG exports dropped 6%, a decline of 8% on shipments to Asia-Pacific only partly offset by a 2% gain to Latin America.  Middle East exports of DEG increased 13% on substantially higher volumes to both Asia-Pacific and North America and a minor gain to Western Europe.

FEEDSTOCKS – Ethylene, Propylene, Benzene and Methanol

Ethylene monomer global trade volume increased 4% in 2011, to 6 million tons. A 5% increase was evident in 2010. Key trade flows: lower intra-regional trade in Western Europe and Asia-Pacific; much higher imports into Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Eastern Europe; a small decline on imports into Western Europe; a 52% increase in exports out of the Middle East, to 1.2 million tons; much higher exports also out of North America, up 89%.

Propylene monomer global trade contracted by 3% in 2011, to 6.3 million tons, down from a 13% increase in the prior year. Key trade flows: lower intra-regional trade in Western Europe; a 12% expansion in intra-regional trade in Asia-Pacific noting higher imports into China and Taiwan and exports from South Korea and Thailand; lower imports into Western and Eastern Europe; a 27% increase in imports into Latin America; and, a 41% increase in imports into Asia-Pacific, most of which were supplied by the Middle East.

Benzene global trade was up 3% in 2011, to 6.8 million tons. This compared with a 2% decline in 2010. Key trade flows: Asia-Pacific exports up 28% on much higher volumes to North America and Western Europe and a minor decline to the Middle East; exports from Western Europe up 76%, mainly on shipments to North America, followed by Africa; exports from the Middle East and Latin America each down roughly 40%.

Methanol global trade was up 9% in 2011, to 29.4 million tons, following a 5% increase in 2010. Key trade flows: imports into both Asia-Pacific and North America up 2%; imports into Western Europe up 30%; exports from the Middle East unchanged at 10.8 million tons; exports from Africa up 69%, to 1.8 million tons; 7% higher shipments from Latin America, to 7.1 million tons.

[important]Subscribe to ITP’s World Trade Annual Reviews.[/important]

Jean J. Sudol
International Trader Publications, Inc.
P.O. Box 687
Tarrytown, NY 10591
email: contact form
Tel: +1 914-631-6856
Fax: +1 914-631-6857