As the world’s largest internal market, the EU is ideally positioned to become a highly attractive business location. However, entrepreneurs need a business-friendly environment in order to make use of these advantages and achieve success in the face of global competition. VDMA therefore calls for an improvement in Europe’s environment for businesses. The enhancement of competitiveness and the EU’s goal of a reindustrialised Europe can only be achieved if policymakers are able to establish a legal framework that attracts investors over the long term. This is particularly true as the fourth industrial revolution triggered by the digitalization of industry is imminent.
Companies in the mechanical engineering industry mainly sell their products abroad with an export ratio of over 75%. VDMA has therefore always supported the EU’s free trade agenda. A well negotiated TTIP, the free trade agreement between the EU and the US, in particular would represent a major achievement for the machinery industry in Europe. Small and medium-sized companies would benefit especially if non-tariff trade barriers were removed, such as different standards or regulations. In addition, trade relations between the EU and Russia, the EU’s responsible sourcing initiative and the free trade agreement with South Korea are of great interest to the mechanical engineering industry.
In the mechanical engineering industry, mass production is the exception rather than the rule. Many products are manufactured in small series or even custom-made. This has to be taken into account in the regulation of machinery products. Based on common standards and the system of CE marking, the EU has created a successful regulatory model. All European producers follow the same rules for placing their machinery on the internal market while also maintaining their entrepreneurial freedom. VDMA calls for maintaining and fine-tuning this model in the EU and promoting it at a global level, putting the emphasis on the potential of the international standardisation system.
Energy With its innovative and efficient products, the mechanical engineering industry plays a key role in meeting national and European energy and climate policy objectives. However, the right framework conditions are needed to fully harness the potential of existing low carbon and energy efficiency technologies. VDMA calls for the rapid and effective implementation of the 2030 package in order to ensure planning security and to trigger investments. As a priority, the European Commission should gear its efforts towards securing a binding agreement during the global climate negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of 2015.
With its innovative products, the mechanical engineering industry enables sustainable production and consumption. However, it is important to strike a balance between what is technically feasible, political objectives and entrepreneurial cost-effectiveness. Especially in the field of custom-made, SME-produced plant and machinery, policymakers need to act with a sense of proportion to avoid design control and bureaucracy. VDMA calls for these points to be taken into consideration in the future development of environmental product policy and to better align the European regulatory approaches on resource efficiency (ecodesign, WEEE), air quality (IED, MCP) and substances (REACh, RoHS).
European industry is facing the challenges of changing market conditions and technological progress. Companies have to adapt to individualization of customer demand, shorter delivery times, faster innovation cycles and they also have to reduce resource consumption. In particular, the digitalization of products and value chains will require substantial changes to the way in which production is organised. EU research policy has to support this process by ensuring international cooperation, access to knowledge and a world-leading research landscape. This must be implemented in a fair and efficient way which is accessible to a wide range of industrial companies, in particular SMEs and mid-caps.
Red tape is a barrier, especially for small and medium-sized companies, and policymakers should take this into account every time they determine the framework for businesses in Europe. In policy areas such as corporate social responsibility or when it comes to responsible sourcing initiatives, policymakers should leave room for manoeuvre for entrepreneurs to engage in a voluntary and non-bureaucratic manner. Moreover, VDMA sees no added-value in a common European sales law. To promote growth in the EU, Europe’s industry needs a reliable legal framework that forms a flexible basis for companies’ transactions when they sell their products.