Continued trade conflicts and slow growth in the rest of the world caught up with the US chemical industry in 2019, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the US chemical industry’s main trade association. The ACC says US chemical production will rise only 0.6% this year, well below its prediction of a 3.6% increase, and it forecasts a paltry 0.4% rise in output in 2020.

“A slowdown is definitely occurring,” says Kevin Swift, ACC’s chief economist. But he notes that the group’s Chemical Activity Barometer, an indicator of production activity, “doesn’t signal a recession.”

Martha Moore, the trade group’s economic and policy director, says the slowdown will continue well into 2020 before recovery begins in the latter part of the year. And long-term prospects for the US chemical industry are good. Shipments, set to hit $553 billion this year, will increase to $668 billion in 2024, she says.

The US chemical industry’s foreign trade surplus, expected to reach $32 billion this year, will jump to nearly $49 billion in 2024. Driving that increase will be rising exports of basic chemicals, thanks to surging energy supplies and increased availability of ethane.

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