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Mexico’s dynamic plastics industry

April 1, 2020
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Mexico is the world’s eleventh-largest manufacturer of plastic products, and the industry is largely reliant on imports.

The plastics industry in Mexico is a dynamic industrial sector that, as of 2018, represents 0.4% of total GDP and 2.6% of manufacturing GDP. Mexico is the eleventh-largest manufacturer of plastic products in the world and the twelfth-largest consumer of such products, and is also a leading nation in plastics recycling. Currently, the plastic and resins industry in Mexico directly employs an estimated 260,000 workers and indirectly employs up to 500,000 people across more than 4,100 companies involved in the industry.

The plastic industry is quite prominent in the Mexican economy. According to the National Association of Plastics in Mexico (ANIPAC), the industry with the largest share of plastic use is packaging, with up to 48% of all plastic products used in this area. Other major industries using plastics are construction (12%), electronics (6%) and automotive (4%).

As of 2018, an estimated 7 million metric tons of plastic products were produced in the country, with an estimated domestic value of $ 270.6 billion MXN ($12.6 billion USD). The industry registered average growth of 4.8% per year from 2009 to 2018.  During 2019, the industry had a difficult time due to the renegotiation of the now USMCA trade agreement, the election of the new Mexican government and lower economic growth of the economy that affected some major industries (automotive, construction, manufacturing), as well as the restructuring of the state-owned oil company, Pemex.

When it comes to trade, Mexico’s imports of plastics and resins greatly exceed its exports. Mexico’s manufacturing and other major industries consume more plastic than they produce, and Mexico’s plastic imports increased by 11.4% from 2014 to 2018. The U.S. is Mexico’s chief trading partner for both exports and imports. However, while the U.S. is the major purchasing partner for Mexican plastic products, buying three-fourths of Mexico’s exports in this sector, when it comes to imports the U.S. share is considerably lower—constituting two-thirds of Mexico’s imports—while other nations’ shares of Mexico’s imports are increasing at a rapid rate, especially China and South Korea. 

Notably, in recent years, with the bad press plastic products are increasingly receiving, legislative efforts are growing to limit the use of single-use plastics such as straws, plastic cutlery, plastic caps, plastic bags at supermarkets and plastic beverage bottles.  In Mexico City, for example, a ban was enacted in 2020 prohibiting the use of plastic bags in all retail establishments, and as of early 2020, 11 of Mexico’s 32 states had enacted laws banning some commonly used plastic products.

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