globalEDGE Blog

As technology continues to grow and change throughout the world, the way consumers pay for their products is also changing. Consumers are using credit and debit cards at an increasing rate compared to cash, even with small purchases less than $5. According to a survey, one third of American consumers said that they usually pay for purchases under $5 with a card rather than cash. Even more surprising, 51% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 reported that they prefer to use a card when dealing with transactions under $5.

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In some of Thailand’s poor villages, there is a new business arrangement that is becoming ever so popular. People from all over Asia are headed to Thailand to seek out surrogate mothers. These families pay Thai women between $10,000 and $20,000 for successful pregnancies, which equates to a monthly allowance hovering around $450, along with free housing in Bangkok. Thailand has publicized itself as a medical tourist destination, providing cheaper options for people all over the world. Thailand is quickly racing up to take the place of the United States as the world’s largest paid surrogacy destination.

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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, are being used more and more in U.S. and U.K. military operations, where manned flight is considered too risky or difficult. Drones are making their way into everyday use as technology gets more sophisticated and regulators loosen restrictions on the usage of these unmanned aircraft vehicles. In the last month, over ten incidents have occurred where drones have interfered with a commercial flight in airspace. The Federal Aviation Administration has attempted to outlaw or limit commercial use of drones, but experts believe there are better ways to regulate usage in a safe manner.

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Over the past months the Ebola virus has claimed more than 1,300 deaths in West Africa. This health crisis is continuing to devastate people in West Africa, and is also having a shattering impact on the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Early estimates have shown that the economy of these countries have been deflated by 30 percent due to the Ebola virus. The mining and agriculture industries have been hardest hit by the virus outbreak. Domestic economic concerns are certainly not the only problem. In today’s globalized economy, the virus outbreak is affecting international business activity.

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It's no secret that the Eurozone is an economically struggling region of the world, and although it has been recovering from the blow caused by its economic crisis, it has been doing so very feebly. Now, the recovery has suddenly stopped; in the second quarter of the year, the Eurozone was recorded as growing 0%. While economists say that the overall Eurozone economy should not sink into a recession yet again, it does not seem like the recovery will pick up its pace anytime soon. The future of its countries economies all depends on what actions the European Central Bank takes.

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Regulations and guidelines involving international business have recently changed in Thailand. The Thai Department of Employment issued new guidelines for trade and investment related activities which streamline business activities in the region. These changes will make it easier for business travel to happen within the country and potentially increase the amount of international business that takes place with companies located in Thailand.

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As harvest time approaches across Europe, many farmers are worried about how much revenue they will make this fall because of trade restrictions with Russia. These trade restrictions, a result of the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, have had a large impact on European growers, who ship an estimated 5.2 billion euros worth of produce to Russian markets. With Russia’s embargo on European goods, farmers across the European Union are scrambling to find new markets to sell their goods, or risk large price reductions as a result of smaller demand.

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File under: Economics, Japan, Taxes

Earlier this year, Japan implemented a sales tax increase from 5 to 8 percent. Bloomberg experts had predicted a median 7 percent decline, however, the economy declined by only 6.8%. And although an economic decline is never ideal, the contraction that has occurred in this quarter is much less impactful than in 1997, the last time the sales tax was hiked.

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File under: Germany, Energy

In the first half of 2014, Germany derived 31% of its electricity from renewable energy sources. Compared to the first half of 2013, Germany's production of solar power increased by 28% and its production of wind power increased by 19%. Germany’s use of natural gas fell by 25%, which signals an effort to become less dependent on Russian natural gas.  Over the past few years, Germany has elevated itself to the status of one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy production, especially in wind and solar power.  Germany aims to continue its production of renewable energy and also its innovation of new sources of renewable energy.

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File under: Mexico, Energy, Oil

Within the past week, the Congress of Mexico has approved new legislation that will allow the country's energy industry to award contracts to private oil companies. As a result of these new reforms, not only will the state-owned oil giant Pemex lose its monopoly over the country's oil sector that it's held since 1938, but foreign oil firms will also be able to enter the lucrative Mexican oil market.

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