As the leaders of the G8 nations met in Northern Ireland for their annual global summit, 17-18 June, the "Advancing trade" item on the agenda seemed to take something of a back seat, in the mainstream press at least, overshadowed by urgent international security and taxation issues.
Prior to the summit, however, an announcement was made on the launch of negotiations (ambitiously set to conclude by the end of 2014) on a landmark trade deal between the European Union and the USA - with, apparently, the promise of jobs by the million in Europe, and billions of Euros of potential benefit to the EU, US and beyond.
From a British perspective, it all puts a very interesting spin on the whole argument over whether the UK should turn its back on the EU.
Meanwhile, forecasts on the global economic situation have not been especially upbeat of late. According to the International Business Times, in June the World Bank cut its global economic growth outlook for 2013, citing "slower-than-expected expansion in China, India and Brazil", and a "stubborn contraction in Europe", although the world economy was forecast to be "less volatile". The Bank is quoted as predicting 2.2% growth in the world economy for 2013, down from the 2.3% growth recorded last year, and revised downwards from its own initial forecast of 2.4% in January.
Figures for the EU make disappointingly gloomy reading, too, with the European Commission Spring Forecast figures released in March predicting a "return to growth in the second half of 2013", to result in a contraction of 2013 annual GDP of 0.1% within the EU and of 0.4% in the Euro area. Searching for the positives, the same Spring Forecast does predict economic activity in 2014 to expand by 1.4% in the EU and by 1.2% in the Euro area.
Such positive numbers do at least suggest that there must be opportunities to be found, for those manufacturers who are targeting
the right sectors and niches. In his report in this issue on the offset printing equipment sector, Tim Sheahan cites recently published data from Smithers Pira detailing a sharp growth forecast of 68.3% for global digital print volumes by 2018, taking about 10% of market share from traditional offset in 10 years.
As with all business areas in this economically sluggish era, it's the innovators, the market-savvy and the fleet of foot who will survive and thrive.