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This globalEDGE Blog post is also shared as an opinion segment on the globalEDGE Business Beat on the Michigan Business Network (a radio show hosted by Tomas Hult).

 

The first two Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) that existed in the world according to the World Trade Organization’s database on RTAs were the EC Treaty (what has now become known as the European Union), which started in 1958, and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which started in 1960. Today, some 60 years later, we have 299 RTAs in force (predicted to be about 308 RTAs by the end of 2018).

Complementing RTAs in the world are Bilateral Trade Agreements (BTAs) between any two of the world’s countries. These BTAs are more difficult to count exactly due to what can be considered an active agreement and what is considered a country. Given that we have 193 country members of the United Nations along with two so-called UN observers (Holy See/Vatican and Palestine) along with Taiwan and Kosovo (and 61 dependent and 6 disputed territories), the options are almost endless for potential bilateral agreements.

Including both RTAs and BTAs, the United States is engaging formally in 14 active trade agreements. The countries included in these 14 agreements are Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, and Singapore. The first agreement that the U.S. entered into was with Israel in 1985, with Israel now being the 24th largest trading partner with the U.S. (amounting to about $50 billion annually).

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Countries, companies, and customers are increasingly concerned with sustainability. What is unclear from a business perspective, however, is how much cost can be tolerated for sustainability efforts and what markets’ sensitivities are to product prices? The results of a large-scale study that I undertook with colleagues (article) indicate that product-market performance can be achieved even when costs/prices increase by 27 to 72%, and when companies implement sustainability efforts that are 5 to 30% above sustainability efforts of the company’s home country.

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International trade and policy experts have made strong arguments that the worldwide economic downturn a decade ago (2008-2009) was due to the inadequacies in the rules that we need to have globally for a stable and prosperous economy. The carryover effect to today, some 10 years later, is potentially worrisome in the long term, some economists suggest.

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As someone who played tennis at a high-level from kindergarten into my 20s (plus engaged competitively in other sports), I have always believed my drive to do well vis-à-vis the competition (versus others and versus my own past accomplishments), in anything I set out to do, is rooted in a values-structure tracing to my competitive tennis days. Some even argue that tennis players make the best employees! Now, this is not about tennis; it’s about former athletes being global leaders.

But this is not any athlete. Most people play sports as a part of their upbringing. If you are like me, I had my children try out a bunch of different sports to see what they liked, didn’t like, and what could diversify their mindsets. This recreational, low-level sports engagement makes for well-rounded individuals, I believe, but doesn’t make them leaders per se. High-level sports, at least college sports or equivalent, and preferably some kind of professional level where you can at least make some money, is what sets the tone for global leadership.

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Alibaba Group Holding Company is a Chinese e-commerce corporation that works to connect online businesses and marketplaces all over the world. The company is the largest e-commerce operation in China and has made its founder and chairman, Jack Ma, his country's richest man. Alibaba has often drawn comparisons to Amazon due to each company's respective dominance in local and global markets. A big part of Amazon's success has been due to its expansion from online retail services, and Alibaba now appears to be following a similar route

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The global travel industry is a major player in the global economy, accounting for 9.5% of the world’s GDP and employing 266 million people. Many consumers also deal with the industry on a regular basis, whether traveling on business trips or for vacations. With the large size of the industry and the constant demand, the travel industry is highly competitive and constantly evolving. Recently, this competition has led to consolidation in many sectors of the industry, such as the hotel, airline, car rental, and online travel sectors. Many of the biggest companies in these sectors are buying out their smaller competitors, seeing economies of scale as a strategy to maintain their leadership role in the industry.

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As foreign investors realize China is becoming more expensive for manufacturing, they are turning their eyes to countries in Southeast Asia. Vietnam, for example, saw its foreign direct investment (FDI) grow 60% year over year in the fourth quarter of 2014. A large proportion of the FDI has gone to the high-tech industry. While people are expecting the technology boom to continue into the future, Vietnam is preparing a series of regulations for the technology industry, which may slow down the growth of IT business in the country.

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After eight years of negotiation, China and Australia finally drew a free trade deal on last Monday. This agreement signals a transformational change in the economic relations between China and Australia because trade tariffs in dairy, beef, and horticulture products will be completely eliminated within the next couple years. Without a doubt, it will greatly facilitate the trade between these two countries. On the other hand, Canada, one of Australia's main competitors, is now worried about its exports to China.

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For more than three months now, the online retailing giant Amazon has been locked in a feud with the publishing company Hachette, which is part of the French media group Lagardère. At first, the feud seemed to start as a pricing dispute over e-books distributed by Hachette. Soon, the disagreements began to multiply and cover even more issues, leading to drastic courses of action by both companies. Booksellers everywhere are nervously anticipating this battle, for whatever decision the two rivals come to will set an important precedent for the relationship between Amazon and publishers. However, it is unclear when this war will end.

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Post graduation, previous students have to make a decision. Should they continue to educate themselves and receive a higher degree in order to make more money upon entering the workforce? Some select this option; however, in recent years the number of students immediately planning to do the opposite has increased, particularly in China. In regards to Chinese Business School grads alone, 76% plan on beginning their job search promptly after graduating.

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As the rupiah reached a five-year low on Dec. 23, 2013, the Indonesian government began to worry about the nation’s economy. It soon announced increased levels of foreign investment in the country's power plants, advertising, and pharmaceutical industries in order to boost the slowing economy. However, some people are concerned that this move will bring many challenges to the nation .

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Major changes could be coming to China, after officials released plans to reform economic and social policies. China’s president, Xi Jinping, unveiled reform plans after a four-day conclave of Communist Party leaders in hopes that the economic changes will increase economic growth, which has slowed since the world-wide recession. Along with the economic reforms, plans were made to relax the one child policy and close labor camps, both infamous in the international community. The reforms, if implemented, could have wide-ranging impacts on society and business in China, improving human rights and opening new sectors of the economy to private companies.

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In the last five years, many economies around the world went through a recession or had their growth stunted significantly due to the financial crisis. Although Europe seemed to have the worst economic effects from the crisis, the new 2012-2013 Global Competitive Index produced by the World Economic Forum reported that European economies are still the strongest economies in the world. Switzerland grabbed the top spot in the rankings, and Europe was well represented towards the top of the list.

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The World Economic Forum (WEF) has released its annual Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) for 2013-2014 on September 3rd. The 2013-2014 GCR is unique in a way that it is a significant measure of the health of global economy during an economic shift. As emerging nations continue to fuel rapid economic growth, and financial-burdened countries regain positive economic momentum, the report captures the economy during a sensitive shift. The top three spots from the previous years’ report remain unchanged as Switzerland, Singapore and Finland respectfully prevail in descending order. The GCR can be found as a ranking for each country under the indices section on country pages such as Switzerland. The Netherlands, Denmark and South Korea dropped three to five spots for larger losses. On a positive note, Norway, New Zealand, and United Arab Emirates gained an impressive four, five and five spots representing a strong push for global competitiveness.

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No matter where you are in the world, the sustainability of almost every economy depends on one critical idea. Young and highly educated workers must be able to fill the void created by an aging population leaving the workforce. In the competitive global economic landscape of today, even highly developed countries cannot afford to slide into downward educational trends. One can obtain great foresight into the future outlook of the global economy by simply comparing international education across industrialized economies. This analysis leads to the discovery of many surprising revelations about the future setting of the global economy.

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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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The problem of copying and product imitation has pervaded businesses from practically the beginning of time. The age-old debate about the nature of innovation has significant importance in the world of business. Patents were originally designed to help companies protect their intellectual property from competitors to ensure that innovation was rewarded not stolen. However, many have argued that products are never completely original and all creativity comes from some other idea. Albert Einstein said it best himself with the famous quote, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” So what does this patent and creativity debate mean for businesses, and perhaps more importantly for global competitiveness?

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This week the World Economic Forum released the 2012-2013 edition of the Global Competitiveness Report. The report measures the business operating environment and competitiveness of over 140 countries worldwide. It also acts as a benchmarking tool for the public and private sectors by identifying the many advantages and obstacles economies face on their way to national growth. As the balance of economic activity shifts away from advanced economies toward emerging markets, many countries are trying to push their economies forward despite the increasingly complex global landscape. This year’s report shows interesting results as some countries were able to accomplish this feat more so than others.

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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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With the Americas Competitiveness Forum in full swing now, and globalEDGE dedicating an entire blog series towards international competitiveness, there is definitely a lot of attention on the subject here. But what exactly is “competitiveness” and how can a country change how “competitive” their economy is in the global market place? That is where this particular blog comes in play: to give a brief answer to both of these questions.

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The fourth annual Americas Competitiveness Forum is happening right now in Atlanta, Georgia. Representatives from countries all over the Americas will be there to give updates about their country and region and brainstorm improvements for export collaboration across borders. This event has over 1,000 participants including government officials, educators, trade experts, and business leaders and is the foremost economic and commercial event in the Western hemisphere. Its main focus is on the competitiveness of companies within the region and trade facilitation and border clearance. There are numerous of different topics that will be discussed but the four main themes of the conference are:

  1. Innovation and green technologies
  2. Education and workforce development
  3. Entrepreneurship and small business development
  4. Trade facilitation, border clearance and supply chain logistics

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Government, business, and academic leaders are coming together this week from throughout the Western Hemisphere to discuss the pursuit of competitiveness and innovation in the Americas. These distinguished representatives will discuss trends, ideas, and best methods that have been utilized to stimulate economic activity in the region. The Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF) is being held in Atlanta, Georgia and will be hosted by United States Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. This week’s blog series will dig deeper into the goals of this conference as well as analyzing the state of competitiveness in businesses around the world. 

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Universum, an employer branding company, released today the world’s Top 50 most attractive employers. From the world’s leading economies, nearly 130,000 students at top academic institutions chose their ideal companies to work for. This is a global index of employer attractiveness that highlights powerful global brands. These companies excel in talent attraction and retention. Students from Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, U.K., and U.S. all contributed their employee preferences.

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Researchers from the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland ranked the competitiveness of 57 of the leading economies in the world based on 329 criteria. These criteria come from 2/3 hard statistical data and 1/3 from surveys that are put into four factor categories: economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure. Here are the top ten: