Economic growth continues in some Member States, however at a slower pace, indicating that there are economic clouds on the horizon. Growth in the EU-28 in 2018 stood at 2.0%, which is a decline of 0.5 percentage points on 2017. Furthermore, according to the European Commission Summer Economic Forecast, the EU-28 is poised to grow at a rate of 1.4% in 20191, this is a decrease of 1.1 percentage points since 2017, showing a clear slowing of the EU economy. This highlights one of the challenges for our sector, the slowdown globally but also the slowdown in the automotive sector in particular, which represents over 20% of our sector. Furthermore, the recent US tariffs on steel will hurt our industries more acutely as the largest consumer of steel in the EU. A possible no-deal Brexit, or any rise in US tariffs on manufactured goods such as automotive or machines, would adversely affect the MET industries competitiveness in a globalised world.
These problems will only be exacerbated by the too high number of vacancies within our sector, the lack of digital skills and the productivity and investment gaps which risk turning into chasms. This further highlights the need for continued reforms of EU labour markets ensuring adequate links between the education systems and those labour markets, which need better support to ensure the digital transformation. This should be done involving companies and social partners.
Some of the opportunities we see for our sector will be detailed in this paper, such as low interest rates, digitalisation of industry and the durable growth which has been commonplace in the EU for some years now.