The above chart presents an excellent snapshot of the development of Asia’s chemical industry over the past 20 years. It comes from the American Chemistry Council’s global production report, and shows volume growth in each country/region, with a base of 100 in 2002.
• China (blue line) has seen the largest growth over the past 20 years. Its output has risen 18-fold since 1989. Since 2004, its growth has accelerated, with volume doubling by 2009.
• S Korea (black) and India (pink) have been the other big winners, with 4- and 3-fold growth since 1989. Both have also continued to grow output through the current downturn.
• The smaller producers (yellow) have also seen 3-fold growth. But their combined volumes have fallen 4% since 2007.
• Taiwan (brown) and Singapore (green) have seen slower growth since 1989, and are now also seeing volumes slip. Taiwan saw output fall 8% last year, whilst Singapore fell 13%.
• Japan (red) and Australia (light blue) were the largest producers in 1989. But their growth rate has been much slower, and their output in 2009 was only c20% above 1989’s level.
Most Asian countries have pursued an export-driven development model over the past 20 years. China, India and S Korea have grown remarkably as a result, along with other NEA/SEA countries.
But with export growth now slowing as a result of the downturn, competition within Asia is now starting to increase. This can only intensify, as the major new import volumes start to arrive from the Middle East.