Trends in China’s Trade in Commodity Polymers in 2022

For the second year in a row, imports of commodity polymers into China were down and exports of most commodity polymers were up, the result of weak demand due to Covid lockdowns. The year ended with commodity polymer imports totaling 25 million tons, down 9% from 2021. This followed a 19% drop in 2021 versus 2020. Commodity polymer exports were 10.8 million tons in 2022, up 22%. This followed a 74% jump in 2021 versus 2020.

Commodity polymers include all grades of polyethylene, polypropylene, styrenics, PVC and PET. There was a small rise in imports, which are mainly polyolefins and styrenics, toward the end of 2022 after several months of record low volumes, but the increase was unlike yearend surges evident in prior years in advance of Chinese New Year (in 2023, January 22-February 5). Exports, which are mainly PVC and PET, slowed in the last quarter, down from record highs around mid-year.

The downward trend in 2021 and 2022 in imports of each of the commodity polymers, and the growth in exports, excluding polypropylene, is visible below (note the differences in scale).

With Covid policies now abandoned, imports into China are expected to rebound after the New Year holiday. Indications of the degree to which this is taking place will be visible first in trading partner export statistics.

From International Trader Publications’ China Polymer Trade Report, an analysis of China’s monthly trade in commodity polymers, recyclable polymers and key fabricated plastic products.