Trends in Global Trade in Polypropylene and Propylene Copolymers in 2023

The volume traded globally of both polymers fell for the second year in a row, primarily on trends in Western Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Global trade in PP (homopolymer) and propylene copolymers trended generally upward from 2014, peaking at a combined total of 33 million tons in 2021, then contracted by nearly two million tons over the next two years, to 31.1 million tons in 2023 (ITP Projection).

Two regions, Western Europe and Asia-Pacific, accounted for 60% of total global trade volume in PP and 68% in propylene copolymers in 2023, based on the sum of their intra-regional trade plus imports from other regions.

In Western Europe, the effects of struggling economies, weak domestic demand and production declines in the face of high energy and feedstock costs are quantified in the region’s trade measures for PP – intra-regional trade, exports to other regions and imports from other regions all declined in 2022 and 2023.

Nearly every country in Western Europe reported lower PP import totals (from all sources). Imports into the region from Eastern Europe, mainly from other EU members in the region, dropped by 36%, to 339,000 tons. Supplies from the largest supplying region, the Middle East, mainly Saudi Arabia, fell by 3%, to 589,000 tons. Partly offsetting these declines were higher imports of PP from Asia-Pacific, up 28%, to 194,000 tons, mainly polymer from Korea and Vietnam. Imports from China were minor, 6000 tons, and were far exceeded by Western Europe’s exports to China of 78,000 tons in 2023.

Western Europe’s trade in propylene copolymers was less dramatically impacted than was the region’s trade in PP over the period. Intra-regional trade declined in 2022 but was steady in 2023. Exports trended downward in both years. Imports rose in 2022, then also steadied as higher volumes from Middle East and Asia-Pacific offset a decline from Eastern Europe.

Additional factors expected to impact Western Europe’s trade in both polymers in the first half of 2024 include supply issues stemming from conflict in the Middle East and new capacity in China.

Asia-Pacific trade in PP and propylene copolymers was heavily influenced by China, the region’s largest importer. Weak economic recovery after Covid-19 and new domestic capacity underpinned the drop in imports of PP into China from all sources by half a million tons from 2021 to 2023, from 3.2 million tons to 2.7 million tons, and in imports of propylene copolymers, by 220,000 tons over that period, from 1.62 to 1.4 million tons.

Despite a surge in imports into India, Asia-Pacific intra-regional trade in both polymers declined over the period. Exports abroad of both polymers also trended lower. Imports into the region, however, increased. In PP, although supplies from the Middle East fell by 3% in 2023, to 3.1 million tons, imports from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia and Kazakhstan, more than doubled, to 341,000 tons, as did imports from North America, to 128,000 tons.

Similarly, in propylene copolymers, imports into Asia-Pacific from the Middle East fell by 1% in 2023, to 685,000 tons, but imports from Eastern Europe and North America each more than doubled, to 26,000 tons and 60,000 tons, respectively.

From International Trader Publications Polypropylene World Trade Analysis and Propylene Copolymers World Trade Analysis, continuously updated online analyses of global trade developed from the latest statistics from all available countries.