Industry by the Numbers

The plastics industry is found in all fifty states and has been one of the U.S. economy’s largest and fastest growing industries for decades. Over the last thirty years, employment and value added from the plastics industry both fared better than manufacturing as a whole. Although manufacturing is still the main end use for plastics, an increasing share of plastic components are used in services, including: wholesale and retail Trade; finance, insurance and real estate; and healthcare.Plastics are the third largest manufacturing sector in the U.S., behind only Petroleum and Coal, and Automobiles. According to U.S. government data, in 2010, the national plastics industry employed 876,000 people, with an additional 512,000 people employed in businesses that supply the plastics industry. In total, the industry is responsible for almost 1.4 million jobs nationwide, or more than 1.1 percent of the total U.S. non-agricultural workforce. That same year, the U.S. plastics industry generated $341 billion in shipments, with another $76 billion generated by upstream, supplying industries, making the total economic impact of the plastics industry in 2010, $417 billion.The industry, including specialized areas like molds, resins and plastics machinery is well-positioned to capitalize on the full benefits of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Before the FTA took effect, Korea was the U.S. plastics industry’s 10th largest export market, with U.S. plastics exports having grown over 131% since the year 2000 and the seventh largest source for plastic imports. According to the Plastics Industry Trade Association, in 2011, U.S. plastics exports to Korea totaled over $1.389 billion and imports from Korea totaled over $1.325 billion.

Korean Tariff Elimination Schedule*:

  • Implementation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement immediately eliminated the 3.1% export tariffs on all molds and 62% of the 6.5% tariff on resins exported to Korea.
  • In three years, the 8% Korean export tariff on U.S. made machinery will be completely eliminated.
  • Within five years nearly every U.S. made plastic product going into Korea will do so tariff free. These tariffs range from 3% to 8%. Their elimination should mean savings of more than $80 million per year to the U.S. plastics industry.


US Tariff Elimination Schedule*:

  • Implementation of the FTA immediately eliminated all US tariffs on Korean molds and most US tariffs on machinery and resins coming into the U.S.
  • Most of the rest of U.S. tariffs on Korean plastics will be eliminated in five years, with only a small number of products, most of which have a 6.5% tariff, being eliminated in 10 years’ time.