U.S./China Trade War: Impact on Polymers

On Friday, August 3rd, China announced a new round of tariffs directed to U.S. exports, as the trade fight amongst these two countries intensifies. This time around, the polymer industry has taken a central stage, as the list of products affected by tariffs extends to cover virtually all virgin resins the U.S. exports into China. In total, 73 virgin polymer codes and 80 transformed/converted product codes have been included by the Chinese authorities in the list of products to be impacted by tariffs.

The impact of these measures will be felt differently, depending on the exports relevance to U.S. producers and how big a share of Chinese imports they represent. In cases like polycarbonate, exports to China represent a large share of the total U.S polycarbonate exports, and the dollar amount that is targeted goes well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Top 10 U.S. Plastic Exports to China, by U.S. Export Value (‘000 $, 2017)

For other products, the total value being exported is not that big, but China represents a very large share of the U.S. exports, like plasticized and non-plasticized cellulose acetates (32% and 30% export share, respectively).

Top 10 U.S. Plastic Exports to China, by U.S. Export Share (‘000 $, 2017)

Chinese converters will also feel the impact of these tariffs. However, the Chinese government has carefully tried to minimize the impact to those converters, by limiting the tariff levels for the products where U.S. exports have an oversized presence, like PLA.

Top 10 U.S. Plastic Exports to China, by China Import Share (‘000 $, 2017)

ChemPMC has prepared a comprehensive database of polymers and converted products that will be affected by Chinese tariffs (if and when those are enacted) and identified the expected level of those tariffs. In addition, the database analyzes the share of U.S. exports and Chinese imports that could be impacted by the announced tariffs, and provides 5 years of trade history (values) between China, the U.S., and the World, for all plastics and articles made out of plastic (Chapter 39, Harmonized Tariff Schedule, 6-digit level). This database, in Excel format, is available for sale; for inquiries and a data sample, please contact us at contact@chempcm.com.

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