In April 2019, for the second month in a row, China’s imports of ethylene polymers hit a new record high. Year to date, reduced volumes from North America were offset by increased volumes from Asia-Pacific sources.
US imports from China of PE and PP film/sheet are a relatively small factor in the global total. US imports of PE bags and sacks from China, however, are substantially larger. All of these products are involved in the US/China trade war.
On August 23rd, 2018, China imposed a 25% duty on imports of ethylene, propylene and butadiene from the US. China imports relatively small volumes of propylene and butadiene from the US. Imports of ethylene, however, are sizable and volumes slowed in the fourth quarter, impacted by the duty.
ITP projects MEG trade volume for 2018 of 15.1 million tons, up 1% from 2017. This compares with an increase of 10% from 2016 to 2017. The trend in global trade volume generally indicates the trend in world demand.
India’s trade in commodity polymers in the first half of 2018 was highlighted by record high exports of virgin polymers, record high exports of fabricated plastic products, and, increased imports of recycle polymers.
If China cuts off all imports of recycle plastics, as reported in the media as possibly occurring as soon as 2018, the impact on recycling industries in the US, Europe and Asia of the loss of a market for 7.3 million tons of recycle polymer would be huge.