U.S. chemicals trade gap shrinks

Growth of U.S. chemicals exports outpaced that of imports in 2006, reports the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Arlington, Va. Total chemistry exports surged 13% last year, to $135 billion, a record. Imports also boasted double-digit growth at 11.3%. Overall, the U.S. trade deficit shrank to $7.3 billion, which still is the third highest on record, says the organization, which counts most major American chemicals manufacturers among its members. As in past years, pharmaceuticals accounted for the bulk of the deficit, although imports exceeded exports for inorganic chemicals, fine chemicals and some specialty chemical segments. Excluding pharmaceuticals, the trade balance is positive for the U.S., says ACC.

“Lost chemistry,” which the group defines as displaced demand for U.S. chemicals because of loss of exports of downstream products or increased imports of them continues to increase, though. It reached nearly $51 billion in 2006, up from almost $49 billion in 2005. While apparel remains the largest contributor to this loss, in recent years the deterioration in the trade balance for plastic and rubber products has been particularly pronounced, says ACC, reaching $3.3 billion in lost chemistry last year.

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