Issue Date: July 4, 2011
Growing Economies Pump Up Commerce
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In the decade through 2008, the value of chemical products shipped around the globeincreased at a faster pace than chemical production. In 2009, the trade fervor finallytook a break, but it resumed again with a bang last year, restarting a trend that therecession had interrupted.
In the U.S., trade ran ahead of the recovery; chemical exports in 2010 surpassed the2008 high watermark, reaching a new peak of $189.1 billion. Meanwhile, chemicalproduction in the U.S. was still significantly down from its 2007 level.
The increase in demand for chemicals, especially from economies growing faster than theU.S. economy, helped power a near-doubling of the U.S. chemical trade surplus to $15.6billion. In particular, the U.S. enjoyed a growing plastics surplus, and it shrank itstrade deficit in organic chemical products in 2010 compared with 2009.
Trade with the developing world also boosted exports from Europe. On the plus side wereEuropean shipments to Brazil, China, India, and Russia, all of which grew by more than20% in 2010. On the import side, Europe’s imports of chemical products decreasedonly from Canada.
Canada, the largest single-country trading partner of the U.S., whittled its tradedeficit to $12.6 billion from $13.0 billion in 2009. The biggest swing came from basicchemicals, which changed from a $342 million deficit to a $426 million surplus in justone year.
South Korea and Japan continued to enjoy a healthy trade surplus in chemicals, as theyhave for many years. The amount of trade increased considerably in 2010, compared with asevere contraction in 2009. South Korea exported twice as many petrochemicals as itimported, for a surplus of just over $20 billion. Japan’s exports of high-valuesynthetic resins were responsible for more than half of the $27.1 billion chemical tradesurplus.
China, by contrast, is a major importer of chemicals, and it had an $18.1 billionoverall trade deficit in chemicals in 2010. Most of that gap was due to a shortfall inorganic chemicals worth $16.5 billion. China’s fertilzer surplus was $2.9billion.
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