The value added generated by the EU's manufacturing industry increased from 1996 till 2001, to reach €1,327 billion. There were 23.7 million persons employed in manufacturing in the EU in 2001, which is 28 per cent of total employment in the bloc.
However, employment was down from 26.3 million in 1990. This decline occurred almost exclusively during the first half of the 90s. Afterwards, employment increased by 3 per cent between 1996 and 2001, and within the food, beverages and tobacco sector, the increase was 11.5 per cent.
Extra-EU exports of manufactured products expanded by an average rate of 9.7 per cent per annum between 1991 and 2001, reflecting the growing importance of globalisation and world markets. The EU's manufacturing trade surplus was €95.7 billion in 2001, with the largest surpluses recorded for machinery and equipment, chemicals and transport equipment.
In addition, Eurostat recently released edited minutes of the European Commission's working group on food safety. A number of key topics were discussed such as the absence of adequate information on organic farms and the gap between administrative data and the results of independent surveys on the topic. In addition, a pilot survey on the subject of seeds was discussed.
The classification of various economic activities was also debated. The NACE, which is the statistical classification of economic activities in the European Communities, will be reviewed in 2007, and three proposals were examined at the meeting. The difficulties involved in identifying organic farming as a specific economic activity was raised, along with the debate over how best to classify the processing and manufacture of agricultural products at farm level.
The aim is for consumers and producers to be able to easily identify GMO products and, in particular, imports from the third countries. Principal GMO products are maize, rape, soya and soya cakes. There was a general consensus that specialised units in the food chain, such as packaging, need to be identified separately.