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US monoethylene glycol flows to China rise in 2019, shipments elsewhere soar amid trade dispute

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US monoethylene glycol flows to China rise in 2019, shipments elsewhere soar amid trade dispute

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Flows to China jump 80% year on year

Belgium, Turkey, South Korea see even larger surges

Houston — US monoethylene glycol exports to China rose 80% to 142,706 mt in 2019 compared with 2018, but Belgium, Turkey and South Korea saw even steeper increases in arrivals of US material as the US-China trade dispute drove efforts to find new destinations, US data show.

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The latest data from the US International Trade Commission show China fell to the fifth-largest export market for US MEG in 2019 from third in 2018 and second in 2017. Those moves reflect trade flow shifts after China imposed 25% tariffs on US MEG and hundreds of other petrochemicals more than 17 months ago in response to higher US taxes on Chinese goods amid the US-China trade spat.

China is the largest consumer of MEG globally, largely to feed its polyester industry.

However, US-origin MEG is among petrochemicals for which Chinese importers can seek tariff exemptions, according to an announcement this week from China's State Council.

The council said it would begin accepting applications March 2 for tariff exemptions on some US-origin petrochemicals, including high density polyethylene, linear low density polyethylene and homopolymer polypropylene.

The tariffs imposed in August 2018 have not been canceled, but could be lifted for Chinese importers that meet certain criteria.

MORE CAPACITY, HIGHER EXPORTS

The US added 1.7 million mt/year of MEG capacity in 2019, and another 800,000 mt/year will come online in June and July if Nan Ya Plastics starts up its new plant in Point Comfort, Texas, as expected, market sources say.

The USITC data shows that US MEG flows to Mexico, the largest export market for US material, steadily rose from 2016 through 2019 to 232,028 mt from 214,146 mt.

Flows to China hit a four-year high of 150,086 in 2017, but fell to 79,063 in 2018 before rebounding last year.

However, other regions emerged in 2019 as major destinations as US MEG exports more than doubled compared with 2018 to nearly 1.3 million mt, the data shows.

Flows to Belgium nearly tripled to 220,644 mt, making it the second-largest export market for US MEG. South Korea soared to No. 3 with 180,801 mt from 12th in 2018 with 4,209 mt. And Turkey took third spot last year with 148,676 mt, up from 28,231 mt in 2018.