Saudi Arabia’s deputy oil minister has launched a broadside against protectionism and trade barriers in the global petrochemicals industry, saying it is damaging to the productivity of the sector.

Deputy Minister of Petroleum & Minerals Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud, along with industry leaders, warned that protectionism is intensifying as more countries enter the petrochemicals industry.

“The recent increase in anti-dumping measures against petrochemicals exports causes a serious concern for me,” said Prince Abdulaziz, speaking at the Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association (GPCA) Forum in Dubai on 20 November.

“Such protectionist policies have an adverse effect on regional and global industry, increase the cost for consumers and reduce economic welfare,” he added. “They decrease the productivity of the industry and restrict trade flows.”

Prince Abdulaziz said the kingdom is engaged in discussions with its partners to foster healthier trade relations based on mutual benefits, but would not go into details when asked.

Stephen Pryor, president of US-based ExxonMobil Chemical Company, echoed Prince Abdulaziz’s sentiment in the subsequent speech at GPCA.

“We are unfortunately living in an era of rising protectionism. At least 400 new protectionist measures have been enacted each year since 2009 and the trend is on the rise,” said Pryor.

“As US petrochemicals exports are ramped up, they will put pressure on local producers in Latin America, Asia and Europe; regions that rely on more expensive oil-based feedstocks,” he added.

Pryor said protectionism is of most concern to the US, as well as the Middle East, where petrochemicals production accounts for almost half of the region’s non-oil exports.