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July 04, 2011
Volume 89, Number 27
pp. 64

Growing Economies Pump Up Commerce

Jump in trade was a measure of recovery for the chemical industry

C&EN Business Group

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In the decade through 2008, the value of chemical products shipped around the globe increased at a faster pace than chemical production. In 2009, the trade fervor finally took a break, but it resumed again with a bang last year, restarting a trend that the recession had interrupted.

In the U.S., trade ran ahead of the recovery; chemical exports in 2010 surpassed the 2008 high watermark, reaching a new peak of $189.1 billion. Meanwhile, chemical production in the U.S. was still significantly down from its 2007 level.

The increase in demand for chemicals, especially from economies growing faster than the U.S. economy, helped power a near-doubling of the U.S. chemical trade surplus to $15.6 billion. In particular, the U.S. enjoyed a growing plastics surplus, and it shrank its trade deficit in organic chemical products in 2010 compared with 2009.

Trade with the developing world also boosted exports from Europe. On the plus side were European shipments to Brazil, China, India, and Russia, all of which grew by more than 20% in 2010. On the import side, Europe’s imports of chemical products decreased only from Canada.

Canada, the largest single-country trading partner of the U.S., whittled its trade deficit to $12.6 billion from $13.0 billion in 2009. The biggest swing came from basic chemicals, which changed from a $342 million deficit to a $426 million surplus in just one year.

South Korea and Japan continued to enjoy a healthy trade surplus in chemicals, as they have for many years. The amount of trade increased considerably in 2010, compared with a severe contraction in 2009. South Korea exported twice as many petrochemicals as it imported, for a surplus of just over $20 billion. Japan’s exports of high-value synthetic resins were responsible for more than half of the $27.1 billion chemical trade surplus.

China, by contrast, is a major importer of chemicals, and it had an $18.1 billion overall trade deficit in chemicals in 2010. Most of that gap was due to a shortfall in organic chemicals worth $16.5 billion. China’s fertilzer surplus was $2.9 billion.

U.S. trade surplus grew, while Canada's gap narrowed in 2010
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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