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NEWS OF THE WEEK
BUSINESS
September 3, 2001
Volume 79, Number 36
CENEAR 79 36 p. 12
ISSN 0009-2347
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Trade Surplus Still Falling

WILLIAM STORCK

On the heels of the latest foreign trade data from the government, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) released a forecast that shows slowing growth in foreign trade for the U.S. chemical industry for the remainder of this year and little improvement in the chemical trade surplus next year.

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In the first six months of the year, Commerce Department data show chemical exports increased 7.0% from the same period in 2000 to $41.6 billion, but imports rose a much faster 14% to $40.3 billion, driving the surplus down 63% to $1.3 billion.

Accentuating this depressing news, ACC doesn't see much improvement anytime soon. In fact, says Martha G. Moore, ACC's senior economist, growth for exports and imports will slow in the second half of this year from what it was in the first six months. Thus, for the full year, according to the forecast, exports will rise about 6% while imports will grow some 13%.

However, the forecast shows little, if any, growth in the second half for the chemical trade surplus, which will end the year at about $1.5 billion--a far cry from the $6.0 billion surplus in 2000.

A number of conflicting factors will affect trade for the remainder of the year, according to ACC. Recent declines in the value of the dollar against the euro and other currencies bode well for enhanced export performance, but weakening global demand will offset these potential gains. As energy costs continue to moderate, the competitiveness of U.S. petrochemicals, their derivatives, and fertilizers will improve. But prices for chemical products have also declined, moderating some of the gains in the value of exports.

For next year, ACC predicts a slight improvement in the chemical trade surplus to about $3.5 billion.

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