We are approaching the end of 2016; an important year for our industry and not only for us. Reviewing the year, we would like to start from Eumabois's point of view, the European Federation representing over 800 companies in the woodworking technology business. This strength, just coming from the number of companies, is especially important because the future activities of our Association will be increasingly focused on safeguarding the interests of all companies representing our industry in Europe. This year we changed our Board, appointing Mr. Juergen Koeppel (Leitz) to President Mr. Luigi De Vito (SCM) to Vice President.
The year 2016 has been satisfactory also from an economic standpoint. The International Monetary Fund expects 1.9 percent GDP growth in the EU, definitely a good result compared to recent times, when growth rates were close to zero. But we cannot hide behind our figures: the world is growing at rates of 3 percent, the ASEAN area by 5 percent. This means that we need to improve our performance and the industrial equipment business is no exception, quite the contrary, it almost precisely reflects these macro data.
Industry exhibitions are often top events but the ROI of these events has to justify the investment, too. Also in this respect, this season has been really positive for our industry. We would like to mention two exhibitions above all, both supported by Eumabois and representing a "turning point" for our market. HolzHandwerk in Nuremberg and Xylexpo in Milan were two key events in 2016. The former reaffirmed the importance of the German market or better the regional market in Europe, while the latter clearly showed that internationalization must be considered as an increasingly strategic business process, especially in Europe.
The picture so far suggests that we have definitely overcome the crisis that started in 2009. We think we should not ignore some elements of uncertainty that are affecting the global political and economic scenario and that might be a threat in the near future. The US election showed a strong desire for change in a country that is still the world's biggest power and from the furniture production point of view the second biggest producer worldwide. Some markets in Northern Africa and Asia are suffering from local troubles that slow down the internationalization process, while Chinese competition is getting stronger. However, China, being the world biggest furniture producer, is a country of great opportunities but also challenges. So we expect 2017 to bring good opportunities, but at the same time we have to be aware that market success will depend on the commitment and determination to innovate and change attitudes that Europe has always mastered.
Carlo Alberto Strada