The European machine tool industry reports its members’ output will increase slightly (0.4%) in final figures for 2014, rising to €22.8 billion ($28 billion) for the year. That figure is provided by CECIMO, the union of trade associations for over 1,500 companies across the European Union, and representing 97% of machine tool production in the region. They also comprise over 33% of the world’s machine tool production capacity.

CECIMO is the same group that last month reiterated standing concern about European industries’ insufficient levels of investment in new production equipment and technology. With the new figures, the group now reports that European machine tool production has stabilized, that purchases of European-produced machine tools within the region will rise 7% to €13.4 billion for 2014 – and now represent the main consuming market for the group’s members. CECIMO’s members exports will show a decline for 2014, totaling €17.9 billion for 2014.  "Since the global economic growth forecasts are weak, so is the European machine tool exports’ growth potential," CECIMO stated.

CECIMO analyzed the results as the effect of slower expansion in the world’s emerging markets along with "fragile" recoveries in developed countries. China’s increasingly consumption-based economic patters, Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian Crimea, and "extreme weather conditions in the United States" also affected EU machine tool exports.

This information is noteworthy because exports have sustained machine tool builders in Germany, Italy, and other countries over recent years, in particular as EU economies have slipped into and out of recession since 2009.

While the current year has seen a rebound in European machine tool consumption, Europe’s economic conditions "considerably cooled during the year,” according to CECIMO, "and the outlook for 2015 reflects this."

“The business sentiment in Europe is fragile and we are cautious about further growth prospects of the European machine tool market,” according to Dr. Frank Brinken, a director of Starrag Holding Group and chairman of CECIMO Economic Committee.

The shifting trade conditions prompted CECIMO to endorse the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement (TTIP), the proposed free-trade agreement between the EU and the U.S., now in final negotiations. "The removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers can eliminate unnecessary burdens on exporters of machine tools without jeopardizing the level of protection, safety and the performance of machines," stated CECIMO president Jean-Camille Uring.

CECIMO also called on European policy-makers to recognize and "fully integrate the global market reality" when applying the Ecodesign Directive — a framework for EU manufacturing that mandates ecological requirements for energy-using and energy-related products sold the region. 

“Technical requirements which do not meet user demand in export markets may have a negative impact on the competitiveness of the sector,” according to CECIMO, which added that "overly-prescriptive ecodesign rules may even compromise the productivity, accuracy and performance of machines which are the core procurement criteria for customers all over the world."

“The international dimension of the machine tool business and its global competitiveness should be placed at the heart of discussions,” stated Luigi Galdabini, president of the Italian machine tool trade association, UCIMU, and vice president of CECIMO. “The sector generates a trade surplus worth 9.5 billion euro and contributes to the EU trade balance.”