globalEDGE Blog - By Tag: international-trade

International trade has allowed business to grow all around the world and has created an interconnected marketplace for goods and services. However, despite these major benefits, risks have also emerged. Experts estimate that 10 percent of medicinal goods around the world are counterfeit and the sale of counterfeit medicine has risen 90% in the last five years. This phenomenon has been attributed to the increasing amount of merchandise crossing borders and the growing sophistication of counterfeit methods. How has counterfeit medicine affected the global healthcare industry?

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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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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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At globalEDGE we are dedicated to providing important international business information to our users all around the world. For this reason, we have developed enhanced trade statistics for each country on our site. The country trade statistics pages on globalEDGE have just been updated to provide a visually appealing interface with easy-to-use features. On these new pages, you can view a country’s rank in terms of exports, imports, or trade balance. Additionally, top ten trade partners and export/import commodities for each country are provided in both a chart and table format for easy comparison.

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Just last week, the World Trade Organization seemed like it was going to pass the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) when India decided not to sign the deal, citing concerns over food security. The TFA was the WTO's first landmark trade agreement, designed to ease and liberalize trade between its over 160 member countries by changing tariff and duty systems, as well as cutting down on red tape. These trade revolutions, it claimed, would have created over 20 million jobs and added $1 trillion in trade output. The idea for the deal was born during the WTO's conference in Indonesia last winter, and the deadline for agreement and signing the deal by its member countries was on July 31 of this year. With India backing out of the deal, however, it seems as though the TFA has been doomed to oblivion....or has it?

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There are many widely known benefits to exhibiting at a tradeshow. You are able to market your product, network and, ideally, generate new business for your company. Unfortunately, however, tradeshows are notorious for being costly. As Forbes contributor, Brent Gleeson, put it, “planning and goal setting is critical to generating a positive ROI from your tradeshow investment." Food Export – Midwest’s Food Show PLUS! program helps companies to do just that. Through its various services, Food Show PLUS! ensures that major international tradeshows are utilized to their full potential by assisting companies in the areas of research, preparation and translation. It is also possible for companies to apply for the Branded Program which offers up to a 50% reimbursement for several expenses related to exhibiting at international tradeshows. If you are considering introducing your products to foreign markets, Food Show PLUS! can give you the tools you need to find success.

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Leaders from almost 50 African countries and the United States met in Washington DC on Monday, kicking off a three day conference that hopes to boost trade between the US and the largely untapped African continent. The summit highlights the realization by many US officials that greater attention needs to be paid to African countries who hold great economic potential. Leaders at the summit expect many trade and business deals to be signed during the three day conference, with some estimating that over $1 billion worth of deals will be announced by Wednesday. With these deals in hand, US African trade relationships could increase greatly in the coming years.

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In what would be a great engineering feat, plans for a canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in Nicaragua have been finalized. The idea of a Nicaraguan canal goes back to the 19th century, when officials in the United States looked into the feasibility of a canal project. Nicaragua ended up being passed over when Panama was chosen as the site for a trans-oceanic canal by Congress in 1902. After the Panama Canal’s construction, talks of a Nicaraguan canal died down until the early 21st century. With increasing world trade and the need for quick shipping, the idea of a second canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was proposed by the Nicaraguan government.

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Over the years, Vietnam has been consistently at battle with the United States over the trade of catfish. The country’s ability to export catfish for a lesser price has made them a top exporter and caused the domestic industry to contract by 60% in the last decade. With local catfish farmers losing money, a so called war was waged starting in 2008 with the introduction of a catfish inspection program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And although the program has yet to go into effect, numerous Pacific exporters are already protesting its introduction.

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Negotiations on the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) heated up over the past week during President Obama’s visit to Asia, although no major breakthroughs in the talks were announced. The negotiations slowed down during the President’s visit to Japan, as talks between the United States and Japan focused on the auto industry; the two countries have long had a rivalry in the auto sector.  Japanese car companies entered and ended the Big Three’s dominance of the US market during the 1970s. This tension has continued today, influencing the trade discussions and preventing the countries from reaching a deal during last week’s negotiations.

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In the face of major economic sanctions from many countries around the world, especially the United States and other Western nations, Russia has been actively looking to avoid economic isolation. As a result of this, it has turned to many large nations in the East to set up economic agreements. One country that is willing to open its doors is China. After over ten years of talks on the subject, Russia and China are finally coming close to signing what has been called a "Holy Grail" for Russia and especially Moscow; a deal where Russia will send natural gas to China.

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Organic food is increasingly becoming an active topic in international trade due to the increase in people’s living standards worldwide, improved transportation, and urbanization. In developing countries, we see that people consume more organic food now as a result of higher income, and this increases the national demand of meat products, which leads to a large inflow of live-stock feed to developing countries. However, in developed countries, organic food is not necessarily associated with high income populations, but rather with people with diversified diets who wish to eat naturally developed food.

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Last week, a panel from the World Trade Organization announced that China had broken international trade law by restricting its exports of rare earth metals and other metals critical to the global manufacturing industry. The panel discovered that the export taxes, quotas, and bureaucratic delays in Beijing artificially raised the prices of exports and created shortages for foreign buying nations. The panel also determined that these export quotas, which the Chinese argued were intended for environmental protection, were actually instituted to achieve industrial policy goals aimed at promoting the continued growth of the Chinese economy.

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Out of the millions of U.S. businesses, only about 300,000 individual companies made an international sale in 2012. Although the U.S. is the world’s number one exporter, there is potential to grow exports by small and medium sized businesses. In its book Exporters!, the U.S. Commercial Service interviews 28 of its current clients that are small businesses, which export their goods or services. Each company covered in the book is unique and has a different story of how they first began exporting. One common theme was the benefits and resources provided by the U.S. government.

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The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect January 1, 1994, creating the foundation for economic growth and strengthening trade relations between Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Now in 2014, it has been over 20 years since NAFTA has been in place. To better understand the economic impacts of NAFTA, we have prepared a table showing trade statistics before and after NAFTA.

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On February 19th, President Barack Obama flew to Mexico to meet with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, approximately twenty years after the three nations had signed NAFTA. The goal of the Toluca summit was to attempt to reduce trade frictions and come to agreement on trade conflicts between these countries. Issues discussed included Obama's trade executive order, the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, the "trusted traveler" program, updating NAFTA, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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Few things are more for the global economy than world trade. Ever since Adam Smith laid out the economics of comparative advantage in his magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations, countries have understood the importance of specialization and trade. The importance of trade remains the same today - if not more important.

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In his 2010 State of the Union address, United States President Barack Obama announced the US National Export Initiative to improve conditions affecting exporting in the private sector. Obama hoped to double exports by 2014. This would include working to remove trade barriers abroad, help firms and farmers enter new markets, and help with financing. Since the initiative was announced, over a million export-supported jobs have been created and exports have increased by over fifty percent. In 2012, US exports set a record reaching $2.2 trillion, which was 13.9% of overall GDP.

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The evolution of technology has opened the Internet for cross-border collaboration and has enabled a whole new range of economic activity that includes online trades, big data, and online advertising. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, from 2004-2009, the Internet contributed up to 21 percent in GDP growth in the developed world and 11 percent in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China). This blog will discuss the international trade benefits created by the Internet and the risks associated with online cross-border trade.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a trade agreement between twelve countries, including China, Japan, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and Peru. This agreement, if ratified, would eliminate almost all trade barriers between these twelve countries, uniting them in the largest free-trade zone in world history. The problem is, it doesn't seem to be getting approved anytime soon; talks that occurred just last week in Singapore ended with the countries reaching no finalized agreement that would put the TPP into effect. As the partnership has been undergoing negotiation talks for years, it is wondered how much longer it will take for the countries to cooperate on certain final issues and establish the partnership.

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In a meeting last week, the leaders of the United States, Mexico, and Canada got together and discussed various issues surrounding their own countries, including forming new trade agreements to open up more trade across the globe. These three countries entered into their own agreement 20 years ago when they signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was a significant step for regional trade in the Western Hemisphere. Now, these three countries hope that they can use NAFTA as a springboard to form new agreements with other countries in an attempt to find new markets and diversify their own economies.

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The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MDARD) International Marketing Program annually recognizes a leading food and agriculture exporter through its ‘Michigan Ag Exporter of the Year’ award to a deserving Michigan food or agriculture company. This special honor can bring further success, signaling to international buyers a company’s quality and commitment to exporting.

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Mitigating climate change and the shortage of natural resources require rapid and widespread development of renewable energy. As the demand for renewable energy has increased largely in the past 10 years, the number of renewable energy trade disputes is also rising. A number of countries have found that their feed-in-tariff (FIT) programs are at odds with the fair trade agreements in the international trade of renewable energy. Therefore, this post will introduce the impacts of trade barriers on the international trade of renewable energy.

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China's economy has politicians, investors, and businessmen all over the world biting their nails in nervous anticipation. Business and investment in the country have become increasingly risky and low expectations have been predicted for several sectors of the economy. The country as of late has been able to hold their own and beat their dismal forecasts; however if it does not stabilize its economy soon, it could prove bad news for the country and for the global economy.

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People’s attention shifted to the U.S. stock market again when stock prices dropped by 10 percent and hit a record low since October 2011. Although the recent ease-money government policies played a role in the price drop, the main reason for the decline was the global growth slowdown.

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In recent years, the financial markets have seen the introduction of a digital currency called bitcoin. Bitcoin is a digital currency that is called cryptocurrency, making it very difficult to replicate. Currently there are about 21 million bitcoins in circulation, each one being valued at about $500 today. In recent months, a bitcoin was valued at $1,200, but new regulations in China made it difficult to exchange the yuan for bitcoins. Some global trends in digital currencies include regulations, buying goods with digital currencies, and using it as an alternative to national currencies. One question many economist ponder is if digital currencies could one day replace national currencies.

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In a world with a clearly-defined gap between developed, larger countries and small countries categorized by political turmoil and radical militant groups, it is difficult to recognize the growth of peace and stability. United States based companies often view currently developing countries as risks due to economic instability. Nevertheless, these low-to-middle income countries are increasingly becoming more stable and present the potential to be beneficial business associates.

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Over the last 30 years, Russia has been the only gas supplier to the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. As the gas price and demand has dramatically increased in the Baltic States, the European Union (EU) is has made plans to subsidize a regional liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Baltic States. These plans are designed to decrease the Baltic countries' energy dependence on Russia and to meet the continually increasing gas demand. However, two issues aroused along with the project: where to build the LNG terminal and how to ease the relationship with Russia.

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Recently, the European Commission traveled throughout the Baltic Countries, which include Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, to promote the European Union’s plan for Rail Baltica. This project plans to connect the three capitals of the Baltic countries with a high speed train and cut the travel time to about four hours. Despite the promotion by the EU, there are still many headwinds that this project faces.

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Latin America has not had one of their best economic years. The International Monetary Fund has predicted a lower-than-average 2.7 percent growth in Latin America's total economies. This is not surprising, seeing as several factors such as poor trade, inflation, and slow economic growth are affecting many nations from this region in a rather devastating manner. Here is a closer look.

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Greenland’s government embraced a major policy change last week that could greatly impact the country itself, as well as its relationship with other major countries. On Thursday, legislators narrowly voted to allow for mining of radioactive substances and iron ore on the Arctic island. In a 15-14 vote, Greenland’s parliament lifted a ban on mining uranium and rare-earth minerals, a decision that could significantly change Greenland’s economy and role in international trade. In another move, parliament gave London Mining PLC a thirty year license to mine for iron ore in hopes that the project will bring jobs and investment to Greenland.

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In a recent study done by Chatham House, a world-leading source of independent analysis based out of London, it was found that large amounts of Nigerian crude oil was being stolen. The research discovered that at least 100,000 barrels of oil per day, or around 5% of total output, were stolen in the first quarter of 2013. The extensive network of exported stolen oil includes thieves, financial centers, commodities traders, politicians, and international trade.

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In 2012 alone, piracy in Somalia cost shipping companies $6 billion.  Teresa Stevens and her husband have come up with a product that aims to make it a lot more difficult for pirates to board ships.  The product is called the Guardian Anti-Piracy Barrier.  It is a simply-designed plastic barrier which fits over the rails of a ship and makes it nearly impossible for pirates to board ships using ladders or grappling hooks.  This invention has the potential to lead to huge cost savings for global shipping companies and have a positive impact on neighboring African countries’ economies. 

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The effect of time zones has been a little-known but important issue for international business. Country time zones have been historically influenced by trading patterns and partners. Setting the same time zone to a partner makes it easier to conduct trading since business hours match. Different time zones force businesses to factor in time zone conversion when dealing with international business and can negatively impact worker productivity.

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On Sunday, China opened a new, 28 square kilometer free trade zone in northern Shanghai. The zone will feature loosened restrictions compared to greater China, such as more freedom for banks and the opening of several industries. Foreign investors and companies hope the new zone will allow for easier access to the Chinese market, but the Chinese government has released few specifics on the regulations and rules of the zone. This has brought along skepticism on whether the zone will have any meaningful impact.

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In 2006, the people of Panama overwhelmingly approved a national referendum to expand and enlarge the Panama Canal. This $5.25 Billion project, currently 6 months behind schedule, is due to be finished around June 2015. The project will double the capacity of the canal by adding 4 new locks, which will be able to handle much larger ships, known as New Panamax. The question becomes how the expansion will impact global trade and shipping routes.

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The trend toward globalization is rising and as globalization's popularity grows worldwide, companies are inclined to develop globally. Therefore, cross-border mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are becoming more fashionable these days as they offer increased opportunities and cheaper alternatives to building companies internally. However, a great majority believe that cross-border M&A is complicated and contains many variables that can lead to business failures.

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In the five years that the globalEDGE blog has been operating, much has changed in the area of global trade and investment. It all began when the global financial crisis came about in 2008 and this led to major changes in the global trade markets. Global trade relative to GDP plummeted around thirty percent during the financial crisis, and the crisis seemed to have come from problems such as poor trade regulation, bad credit, and poor bank strategies. There are many changes that have been made to the global economy and many challenges that have been faced in the area of global trade since 2008. Here’s a look at what has happened.

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Exports continue to help grow and expand Michigan’s food and agriculture economy, while generating nearly $2.8 billion in economic activity with support from the nation’s second most diverse agriculture industry, strong public and private investment, and a diversified portfolio for food processing. Exports of consumer food products are growing three times faster than sales in the United States due to the foreign consumers’ growing purchasing power and lower trade barriers. Thus, exporting is vital to Michigan companies as an opportunity to increase sales and profits, as 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. Moreover, food and agriculture producers can reduce dependence on existing domestic markets, and off-set slow sales due to economic changes, demands, and cyclic fluctuations resulting in short and long-term security for Michigan.

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Since the governmental reforms and the economic reforms that Australia underwent in order to make their country more relevant in global trade, China and Australia have maintained strong trade relations. Since 2008, Australia has more than doubled its trade with China. This is due to less strict trade regulations, lower taxes on exports, and a less conservative economy. Once these reforms were made, Australia transformed from a independent, isolated and small economy to a more internationally competitive economy with a more export oriented background.

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The international trade of consumer products is a regular occurrence and nearly everyone in the world is aware of its role in the global economy. However, how many people are cognizant of the fact that cities use imported garbage from neighboring countries and turn this waste into energy? I am guessing that not many people have heard of this phenomenon. This is exactly what is happening in the city of Oslo, located in southern Norway.

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Generating international sales is a difficult task for many small businesses around the world. However, there are a countless number of strategies and opportunities that allow businesses of all sizes to accomplish this challenging feat. In fact, one of the best ways to drive intentional sales for your business is to attend international trade shows where you can display your product to interested buyers. The video posted below by the United States Department of Commerce uses the Health Show in Dubai to explain the benefits of attending an international trade show!

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Globalization is the worldwide movement to increase the flow of goods, services, people, real capital, and money across borders in order to create a more integrated world economy.  Previously, I wrote of international trade in antiquities, but let take a look at trade during antiquity and how it has affected today’s economy.  Trade networks have always followed the trends of politics, economics, technology, and most importantly culture.  Exotic luxury goods demanded by elites encouraged trade to gain momentum: Incense Route, Silk Road, Amber Road, Spice Route, and Tea Route.  Soon, economics became so interconnected that World Systems became dependent on each other.

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Japan is the world’s third largest economy and the United States is the largest economy in the world ranked by GDP. But, these two huge economies do not have a free trade agreement, which strikes the question – why not? Obviously, there are a lot of reasons why these two great nations have not struck a deal yet, but one could be on the horizon.

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“Trade creates wealth”: an age-old saying oft used to break international boundaries for the free exchange of goods, services, currency, and capital. But this age-old saying does not hold true when it comes to the underground economy of old-age empires’ wealth.  Trafficking antiquities not only creates sinkholes in the public goods marketplace, but it also depreciates cultural heritage sights.  Furthermore, these black market deals are exponentially increasing the rate of cultural homogenization by privatizing potential world-heritage commodities.  Why be entrepreneurial with a public good like history?  It is far more meaningful for archeologists, history enthusiasts, and the inquisitive society.  Due to its unauthorized, undisclosed, unregulated, and highly informal, the black market for antiques can only be scratched at surface level but three distinctive vacuums emerge: currency, knowledge, culture.

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A few months ago, Zheng wrote a blog post about a possible Trans-Atlantic trade agreement. Recently, talks have been heating up between the United States and the European Union with negotiations on a trade deal likely to begin by the end of June. The free trade agreement, if passed, would remove tariffs and reduce other barriers to trade, spurring economic growth, exports and job creation for both parties. Given the stagnant state of the global economy, there is much excitement over a potential deal and optimism is high that an accord will be reached.

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The World Trade Organization is investigating an Indian governmental program that requires solar energy producers to use Indian manufactured solar cells instead of imported products. Several U.S. environmental groups are pressing the WTO to not pursue action against India, saying that ending the program would threaten the ability of India to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The irony is that India’s green energy industry would be harmed if no action were to be taken, a blow to the environmentalists goal of increasing alternative energy use throughout the globe.

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What leads to the prosperity of nations? It is an interesting question that many have tried to answer throughout time. It puzzles many that a small island off the northern edge continental Europe can come to dominate the globe for a period of time. There surely is not one answer to this question and, in fact, there are many more that can be written. Niall Ferguson takes on this question through the effect that financial institutions have on the prosperity of nations in his financial history of the world in The Ascent of Money.

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Out of the millions of businesses in the United States, only about 1.5 percent of these companies sell their products internationally. Furthermore, over half of these businesses exported to only one foreign market. So what can be done to increase U.S. exports? Doug Barry of the U.S. Commercial Service has the answer. In his book, Exporters! The Wit and Wisdom of Small Business Owners Who Sell Globally, Doug Barry shares 26 success stories from small companies in the United States who made the leap of faith in selling their products abroad. These companies started from small beginnings and now make products for customers throughout the world.

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How do you know if a currency is overvalued or undervalued?  Well, there are currently many measures that contribute to determining the fair value of a currency.   One common measure is evaluating purchasing-power parity (PPP) and another is determining whether or not a country’s trade deficit or surplus is representative of the country’s fundamental economic attributes.  Although these factors can together accurately determine a currency’s fair value, a universal method is still lacking.

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For years, Africa has been viewed as a continent stricken by poverty with practically no chance of achieving sustainable economic growth. Just over 12 years ago, The Economist even labeled Africa as “The Hopeless Continent” plagued by war and disease.  However, that paradigm is beginning to radically change. Over the past decade, Africa has been the second-fastest-growing region in the world with an annual growth rate of 5.1 percent. To the surprise of many, over 500 African companies have annual revenue of $100 million or more. How has Africa been able to turn around its fortune in such a short period of time? Many believe this economic turnaround can be attributed to greater political stability and reforms that have unleashed the private sector in many African countries. Though, the main source for this economic resurgence has actually been globalization as you will soon see.

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India’s trade gap, especially as of late, is increasing rapidly.  This is due largely in part to substantial percentage hikes in imports and stagnant export growth.  Some are growing concerned over the rising account deficit, which is directly correlated to the current trade deficit.  To put India’s trade deficit in perspective, exports grew by 0.8% in January while imports grew by 6.1%.

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“Export or Die”, a phrase that Americans and other countries seem to neglect, has become an emergent dilemma in Japan. An annual trade balance report released last Thursday triggered a sense of crisis in Japan by displaying a huge trade deficit. This is the second straight year that exports have been in the red for Japan. As an export-reliant country, Japan is going to be hit hard by this news without doubt.

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In recent years, the Chinese and Latin American business relationship has done very well, especially in the South American countries.  China is now the main market for most of the exports for Latin American countries, along with being a big source of imports as well. There has been much greater investment in Latin America by Chinese companies such as mining in Argentina, Brazil and Peru, manufacturing in Brazil and Uruguay, and tourism in the Bahamas. With all of these influences from China taking place, there have been some major imbalances of different kinds.

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Latin America, a region once plagued with high inflation, has seen a drastic shift in spending and consumption trends in the past decade. This shift of consumption has been due to multiple factors, particularly the economic boom and declining poverty of the region. In the past decade, 50 million people in Latin America have joined the middle class according to a World Bank study.

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Agriculture has been an essential industry for nearly all major economies in the world. These countries use agriculture to drive international trade and create jobs. In the United States, agriculture is one of the most export dependent sectors of the economy with one-third of US agricultural production exported annually. Developing countries have realized the importance of creating economic growth through agricultural production and exports. With an increasing global population, agriculture has provided emerging economies opportunities for growth and integration into the global economic picture.

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In a global economy marked by unemployment, it might be surprising to hear that one industry is actually booming with career opportunities. That industry happens to be Big Data and business analytics. By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, the big data industry will also need over 1.5 million people in the next few years capable of analyzing data that enable business decisions. Global companies have begun the search for employees with complex skillsets and the ability to analyze large amounts of data. As you can see, big data is becoming ever so important for international business.

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International trade is a very important aspect of the world’s economy in the globalized business climate of today. Less than one percent of all United States businesses export and according to research, the main reason for not exporting is the lack of confidence in selecting the best market for U.S. products. To help solve this issue, the U.S. International Trade Administration has published a book titled Free Trade Agreements: 20 Ways to Grow Your Business available for download on iTunes.

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When the financial crisis hit the world in the fall of 2008 most sectors of the economy came crashing down with it. International trade was no different, and by some measures the decline was more pronounced. When world GDP began to contract and hit its bottom in 2009, exports dropped nearly 30%. One would expect a certain amount of withdrawal when a crisis of this magnitude hit but with such a huge drop off the question arises what other factors could have played in? The answer is not as simple as it may seem.

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In 2010, countries around the world engaged in a race to the bottom to devalue their currencies in hopes to boost exports and thus foster economic growth. Now in 2012, fears of another currency war have arisen again after the Federal Reserve announced the third round of quantitative easing which has caused many to believe that the U.S. dollar will weaken. It’s still unknown if central banks in other countries will respond by keeping the value of their currency low relative to the dollar. The main goal of weakening a currency’s value is to increase exports by making goods cheaper in relation to other countries. So what exactly does this mean for international business?

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In September 2011, India lifted a four-year ban that was responsible for limiting the exportation of wheat and rice.  Because of this ruling, India exported over 10 million tons of grain and soymeal in the first half of 2012, a figure that is nearly double what it was in the first half of 2011. The current drought in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan has significantly limited wheat production in these countries, yet world wheat prices have remained relatively stable due to India’s timely increase in the exportation of this commodity.

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After an 18-year effort, the Russian Parliament has finally approved the country's entry into the World Trade Organization. While the other nations of the W.T.O. had agreed to Russia's entry in December, the acceptance still required a majority vote in Russia's lower house of Parliament, known as the Duma. What could have been a routine acceptance, since President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party controls the Duma, was interrupted by strong opposition by the unusually vocal Communist Party. As the ratification dragged on, Russia's economic minister Andrei Belousov warned lawmakers that the agreement reached towards the end of 2011 would expire if not ratified by the mid-July deadline. This sparked a vote by the Duma, which voted 238 to 208 in favor of joining, with one abstention.

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Over the years, clean energy sources have become extremely popular as countries and governments around the world try to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions. One of these clean energy sources is solar power which converts sunlight directly into electricity. Solar power has been used as a major energy source for many applications such as providing electricity for residential homes and industrial equipment. Recently, solar power has been applied to many new projects. One of which is shipping and if successful, solar powered shipping can have large impacts on the environment as well as international trade.

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Africa is a land with vast natural resources, but they come at a high price. Africa is known for having some of the most unstable countries in the world. Even with these dangers, China has broadened its exposure in the region to secure the natural resources needed by the factories and businesses of the world’s fastest growing economy.

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Latin America is on the rise. Not only has the region experienced a significant amount of economic growth in the last decade, it has begun to dominate large areas of trade worldwide. Latin America contains a large amount of land, along with a large population ready to drive its international success. While often Latin America is looked at as impoverished, author Raul Rivera points out that in fact Asia and Africa are much poorer regions.  Latin America is filled with natural resources, and a population that is ready to explore more business ventures.

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Although the BRIC grouping of emerging economies does not include a single representative from the African continent, many economic experts and multinational corporations see enormous growth opportunities across the continent.  While most businesses are now aware of opportunities in countries such as Brazil, India, and China, corporations truly utilizing global expansion as a growth opportunity are looking beyond these popular markets.  More than 12 African nations have seen economic growth exceeding six percent for six consecutive years. 

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The United States-Colombia free trade agreement approved just a few months ago has helped business growth in Colombia and is expected to continue to help boost Colombia’s economy. The main benefit from the free trade agreement is often seen as attractive conditions for increased exports and imports. However, some companies in Colombia see the main benefit coming from the growth of demand that the free trade agreement will likely generate. Besides these major benefits, there are also many other positives for business in Colombia derived from the newly passed free trade agreement.

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This past week, the United States passed a trio of free trade agreements removing trade barriers with the countries of Panama, South Korea, and Colombia. The free trade agreements will have many impacts on international trade tendencies between these countries as the pacts will essentially eliminate tariffs faced by exporters in all four countries. Exports of each country are expected to rise as a result of the agreements and many businesses small or large will be able to compete in new markets abroad. The trade relationships between each country will dramatically change as the new trade agreements mark the biggest opportunity for exporting businesses in decades.

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Exciting news! The United States Trade and Development Agency, in coordination with the U.S.-Egypt Business Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Egyptian Embassy and the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, will be hosting a two-day forum on June 27-28 to encourage enhanced trade and sustainable economic development in Egypt. This conference, being held this year in Washington D.C., will provide an unprecedented opportunity to foster increased cooperation and trade between the United States and Egypt by encouraging business-to-business networking and highlighting commercial opportunities and financing resources.

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A massive project to renovate the Democratic Republic of Congo’s broken-down railway network has been launched in the capital city of Kinshasa. Most of the rail track in Congo was laid more than 100 years ago, so repairs and improvements are huge necessities. Costing a total of $600 million, this project is being backed by China and the World Bank with an estimated completion time of four years. The major goal for the revamped rail system is to restore services to provinces where rail is the only connection to the rest of the world in the absence of roadway and river transportation. This project has huge implications for businesses and bordering countries looking to trade with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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As Colombia’s energy sector expands and major infrastructure projects continue to develop, vast opportunities will be made available in Colombia for exporters across the globe. The United States has been Colombia’s top trading partner for the last couple of years but competition is increasing as other countries aggressively pursue trade opportunities in Colombia’s active and growing market.

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In 2009, China became Brazil’s largest trading partner in the world, overtaking the position that the United States has held since 1930. Brazilian exports are increasing rapidly to meet China’s immense demand for raw materials and commodities. On the other side of this trade relationship, cheaper goods imported from China are opening new horizons for Brazil’s growing middle class. This commercial relationship between these countries is continuing to grow and has reached an entirely new level.

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Incoterms are standards for international trade that provide a consistent interpretation of agreements included in global business contracts.  Every ten years, the International Chamber of Commerce makes updates to the standards based on changes in the global business environment.  As of January 1, 2011, the new Incoterms 2010 are officially in effect.  The revisions listed below are a reflection of widespread changes in international business markets over the past decade. 

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Ahh Silicon Valley – a beautiful 50-mile strip located right on San Francisco Bay between San Francisco and San Jose. It's home to innumerous technology companies including global chip heavyweights Intel and AMD. Silicon Valley used to be the go to place to start a new chip company however startups are starting to attract less funding and much of the development can now be done in China.

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There are many markets for U.S. goods in the Middle East and North Africa but the largest single market happens to be relatively new. Formed in the 1970s, the United Arab Emirates is the largest single market for U.S. goods in the region and the 19th largest market globally. The United Arab Emirates is a federation composed of seven states located on the Arabian peninsula. As new, large-scale infrastructure projects continue to develop, this market will remain a prominent source of opportunities for United States exporters.

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A few weeks ago, President Obama discussed progress made on an important goal of the United States. Over the next five years, the American economy is looking to double its exports and support the creation of many new American jobs. The first step of this process began with the implementation of the new U.S. export control system in August of 2010. Now, President Obama’s Administration is deploying its Export Control Reform Initiative webpage at export.gov. This website has helped the United States make remarkable gains on its plan to double national exports.

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When most people think about rare earth mining, they think miners extract a chunk of lanthanum or cerium, send it to Apple, and they put it in their newest iGadget. However, few know that there are two different types of rare earths with wide ranging uses and prices. In addition, raw minerals must be processed using a complicated (and often dangerous) process to extract the individual elements.

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On November 23rd North Korea fired artillery on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong as a response to South Korea performing military drills near disputed maritime border. Besides the obvious restrictions set on North Korea by global super powers, some businesses are also taking steps to protect their employees from the potential threat.

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The Wall Street Journal brought together CEOs of 100 major corporations to discuss their thoughts on recent economic challenges. During the meeting in Washington D.C., CEOs argued that the only way to increase jobs in the United States is to embrace increased global trading relationships. This plan would necessitate government and business leaders to work together and promote free-trade agreements that would open doors to international markets.

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It is no secret that going global has become more and more essential for successful businesses in this competitive world. Still, some smaller companies find it difficult to break into foreign markets and are struggling to know where to start. Luckily, the U.S. Commercial Service and the National Export Initiative provide several helpful tools for businesses looking to export. One of the most useful resources for businesses looking to expand internationally is international trade shows. These can provide businesses with trade leads, business connections and exposure to the latest trends and technologies.

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Free trade agreements (FTAs) have long been in controversy. By some they are hailed as the end all be all of economic growth, while others view them as a tool for the strong to exploit the weak, or a hindrance of worker’s prosperity. While there are degrees of truth to both arguments, the fact remains, trade increases, economic activity increases, and average wealth increases. FTAs need to be utilized with caution however, as many industries in many countries are not up to the competitive standards of the established powerhouses of developed countries. In addition, first-mover advantages often need to be cultivated in insulated environments where kinks in production can be removed and experiments explored without loss of the initial advantage. All of that being said, FTAs drive competition, and competition, in the end, is the best driver of economic growth and innovation.

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