As usual at this time of year, Gimav has already firmed up its key commitments for the coming year. Naturally, emphasis is on trade show events, of particular interest in 2016, thanks to good business performance, but that has now grown fragile in the climate of intense international unrestTo directly check the barometer of market sentiment, we begin with China Glass, perhaps the industry’s most eagerly-awaited trade show, slated to take place April 11- 14 in Shanghai.As is customary, Gimav will be there with a group stand measuring about 1,000 square meters, set aside for flat and hollow glass member firms. Outwardly, it will be similar to previous editions, but inside, a completely different situation. Gone are the days of double-digit growth; China has seen its own growth rate plummet and is now expected to stabilize next year at around 6-6.5%, at best. Which would not ordinarily be a big deal, given the overall economic power it has achieved, placing it in competition with the USA for the top spot among global economies. The problem lies in the great struggles China will have to face to become a modern and moderately prosperous society. That implies developing a domestic market, increasing wages, reducing the excessive inequities, improving the social security system, standing firm on technological development and pushing for solutions to chronic issues like the extreme level of pollution. Huge obstacles, but also precious opportunities for western enterprise.
Another difficult, but quite different, situation is Russia. Both flat and hollow glass members will participate in Mir Stekla in Moscow, June 6th to 9th. Here the obstacles are entirely political, after the progressive shrinking of the general crisis of the last seven years. The price paid by Italian and European businesses was steep, with exports to Russia 30% lower than last year. And yet, despite the winds of war, there are signs of good will from both sides, and the possibility of at least a partial lifting of the sanctions against Moscow seems more and more likely.
The situation in Brazil is not much better, where analysts are unanimous in proclaiming a deepening recession. The third quarter GDP for this year contracted by 4.5%, involving almost all the economic and financial sectors – and the crisis quickly went from economic to political, social and institutional. Is it possible to still be optimistic about the future of the former Star of the South? Yes, if you consider that some distortions in the system have finally come to the surface, that the justice system works, that the population is on average quite young and educated and that the country has an immense capital in natural resources. At Glass South America, slated to take place in São Paulo from June 8 to 11, Gimav flat glass member companies will have approximately 1,000 square meters available in which to highlight the level of their natural inclination toward business confidence.
In the second half of the year, autumn brings the highlight event of the year – GlassTec 2016, set to take place in Düsseldorf September 20 to 23. Gimav is organizing a large exhibit area for its members. In the heart of virtuous Europe, the glass processing industry can begin to make an early assessment of its state of health and gauge to what extent exports were able to uphold the fate of Italian industry compared to unenthusiastic initial forecasts. Currently, the more-industrialized countries (Italy, France and Germany) are the ones most exposed to the drop in exports. Add to that the rising tensions in the Mediterranean area and the next few months will help us understand just how much this new recession will impact the economic process and therefore the dynamics of our industry.
The modest recovery that Europe is experiencing is heavily bolstered by the US, which has reawakened to its historic role as driver of the global economy. The partial slowing of the American GDP in the third quarter appears to be merely contingent because private domestic demand maintained a growth rate of more than 3% and, in the last forty years, unemployment has never been as low. This is the distinctly positive scenario participants at Glass Build America will find in Las Vegas, October 19 to 21, where Gimav member companies in the flat glass sector will have within reach a market in excellent health. As growth in emerging countries flags, the baton seems to be passing into the hands of the West, and specifically the Atlantic countries.