U.S. exports of certain miscellaneous plastic products grew by $4.4 billion (18.3%) to $28.7 billion, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC).
Plastic products with the largest increases in these international sales included those used in the global construction and automotive sectors, both of which saw strong recoveries in 2021 (e.g., plastic molds, fittings, pipes, plugs and closures, and gaskets), as well as those used in packaging or shipping goods (e.g., plastic boxes and sacks and bags).
The top three U.S. export markets for miscellaneous plastic products (and those with the largest absolute increases in 2021) were Canada, Mexico, and China.
In addition, the USITC indicated that many of these plastic exports, especially those to Canada and Mexico, were used in sectors that expanded in 2021 (e.g., automotive and housing and construction).
Although exports to these three markets declined during 2020 due to pandemic-related shutdowns and slowdowns, exports rebounded in 2021 to exceed pre-pandemic levels as downstream economies and manufacturing sectors recovered.
Primary aromatics digest experienced the largest percentage increase in U.S. exports, rising $217.7 million (153.2%) to $359.9 million in 2021.
Digest chemicals-benzene, toluene, and xylene-are key inputs into downstream chemicals or can be used as end products in all sectors of the economy.
For example, benzene is an important input in the production of styrene, a chemical used to make a variety of downstream products, such as latex, plastic containers, disposable cups and containers, and insulation.
However, U.S. benzene exports increased because less benzene was consumed domestically due to the decline in U.S. styrene production as a result of temporary industry shutdowns caused by bad weather in February and August 2021.