FAR EAST: ASEAN aims to corner global plastics market

"Current global events have caused challenges affecting plastic enterprises, including the pressure of globalisation and liberalisation of the economy. This has forced us to rethink the way we do business," Ronald Lim said.

At the conference, representatives of ASEAN-member countries, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Viet Nam, plus Japan and China, discussed issues facing the industry.

Shrinking demand, a sharp decline in plastic prices, fluctuating material prices, soaring energy prices, labour shortage and high operating costs are just some of the many challenges facing the plastics sector.

At the conference, country reports were presented on the plastics industry outlook.
According to the Malaysian Plastics Industry Association, the plastics industry is anticipated to register mild growth of 2-3 per cent for this year, similar to last year. The growth will be driven by the export of packaging materials.

Developed economies are facing high costs, so they are looking for high-quality products at reasonable prices.

"For the long term, the industry will shift to higher value-added activities as costs are expected to increase further. Training of skilled labour and technical upgrades are vital," the representative said.

The Philippine Plastics Industry Association said its objective was to promote a level playing field in the industry, both in the domestic and international market.

It would keep the industry updated with the largest trends in technology, production processes and new products.

Speakers for the Viet Nam Plastics Industry and the Singapore Plastics Industry said their countries would continue to focus on increasing polymer production capacity, which is integrated with corresponding petrochemical expansion.

In Singapore, all petrochemical facilities are nearing mechanical completion and downstream polymer production has been expanded. More than 5 million metric tonnes of polymer are expected to be produced per year, with a higher level of exports expected. Upon completion of the facilities in 2015, petrochemical capacity will be increased by 2.5 million tonnes and synthetic rubber to 450,00 tonnes.

The Viet Nam Plastics Association said it was issuing the monthly Nhua&Cuoc Song magazine (Plastics&Life) which would include the latest information on production, markets and

Viet Nam's plastic industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country.

The 14th AFPI council ended on 23 Oct. 2012, and by rotation based on alphabetical order, the AFPI chairmanship will be turned over to Thailand. Singapore will continue as the AFPI Permanent Secretariat.

Source: Daily "Vietnam News", Hanoi; 24 Oct 2012

(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)