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Fair Trade has been around since the 1950s, but what exactly is Fair Trade and how has it changed since its inception? Fair Trade is global movement focused on providing over 1.6 million small-scale producers and workers with fair prices. It is an approach to commerce that eliminates forced labor, child labor, and discrimination while demanding safe working conditions, fair payment, respect for the environment, and transparency. It is an ethical method to trade and works towards alleviating poverty and sustaining development in developing nations.

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The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an independent organization that conducts research on global security. More specifically SIPRI collects data on military expenditures and the international arms trade. SIPRI released their latest data for 2016, this Monday, February 21st.

The headline of their latest data release is that global arms trade volume has reached its highest point since the end of the Cold War in 1990. While the overall global uptick is intriguing in its own right, there are also several interesting trends at both the region and country level.

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Dubai has been one of the fastest growing economies in the past 3 decades, if not the fastest. Dubai has been all over the news and social media for quite some time now, and everyone is amused by its dramatic changes. It distinguishes itself with its ultramodern architecture, skyscrapers, and luxurious shopping. It’s also known for its indoor skiing, housing the tallest skyscraper in the world, “Burj Khaleefa”, and building man-made islands such as the “Palm Jumeirah”.

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Islamic finance presents an interesting contradiction between religion and modern economics. The world of finance is in large part built on the premise of interest. The debt market now dwarfs the equity (stock) market, and a majority of debt products inherently carry some form of interest. The world of Islam, however, strictly forbids usury, or the practice of charging interest. Islam is also the world’s second largest religion with over a billion adherents, which makes it impossible for its practitioners to not participate in the world of finance. This seemingly huge dilemma is solved by the practice of Islamic finance. Bridging the gap between religion and business, Islamic finance is quickly growing in both size and importance.

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Doing business in a foreign country or region can be challenging, especially when the culture is substantially different from what one is used to. Thus, informing oneself of the cultural norms and the way business is conducted in a given country can be extremely beneficial and help to prevent mistakes that could damage business relationships. When conducting business in the Middle East, there are several things a businessperson should keep in mind. This blog post highlights some of the key cultural differences to be aware of.

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News coverage shows the chaos currently engulfing the Gaza Strip. The Israeli bombardment has so far destroyed 50 factories that previously produced food, textiles, and other goods according to the Vice President of the Palestinian Federation of Industries, Ali Al-Hayek. In addition to the poor economic effects of these attacks, citizen’s homes have also been destroyed. During July’s fighting alone, at least 2,655 homes have been extremely or entirely damaged. Inevitably, Gaza will have to undergo massive reconstruction once the conflict resides, however there are major problems associated with cost and trade that could prevent it from doing so.

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Until now, China has never shown much interest in Middle Eastern investment. If it is able to establish a relationship with the Middle East, it can take advantage of arguably one of the most volatile areas in the world. In an area where westerners have long feared to go, China seems very interested in the diplomacy, economics, soft power and security. Upon helping in the war in the Middle East, China has begun to fully immerse themselves in the Middle East in an effort to increase their involvement in the area.

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While social media sites are becoming increasingly popular worldwide, there is one region in particular where social media has nearly unlimited growth potential. That region is the Middle East and although there has been much concern surrounding the use of social networks for protest demonstrations, social media sites provide great opportunities for businesses of the region. In the Middle East the number of social media users has already doubled in the past year. Now, the question is whether businesses of the region will take advantage of social networks and use them as a brand building tool.

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In 1982, China was just beginning to open up to capitalism when the government decided to use a plot of land in a rural town of Yiwu to use as an open-air market. What started off as a rural, poor city has turned into a vibrant Trade Mart which now covers 988 acres. To put this into perspective, you could fit 10 Mall of America’s in the same space.

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Some time ago, a female finance manager in the USA said to me "It doesn't matter who you are or how smart and hard-working you are, the business world you will get to know as a woman is different than the actual business world." These are definitely not the most encouraging words, but it is no secret that to this day it is still much more difficult for women to advance in the business world. For females, the competition takes a different shape. No matter the difficulties however, women in the Middle East have found a solution in enterprenureal finanace.

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Qatar has said it is looking at spending $100 billion as it is currently trying to revamp its infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 World Cup.  In response to the government of Qatar’s request, the United States government is sponsoring a trade mission to Qatar in June this year.  The country has been growing rapidly and is looking to build multiple new stadiums to host the event.  The growth potential in this country and for this trip is phenomenal.

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The Middle East is looking for new places to expand in the agriculture industry. After an Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD) meeting, they are searching for the best places to invest in foreign farmland. In recent years, buying foreign farmland has been especially appealing to Middle Eastern energy companies who have a lot of capital but not a lot of land.

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Are you interested in learning about the growing areas of patient healthcare and water and waste management and how to take advantage as an exporter? Rapidly-growing economies, strong ties with the United States, and major public health needs put the Gulf Region among the world's most promising markets for U.S. suppliers. To help U.S. firms leverage opportunities in these markets, a senior-level Department of Commerce official will lead a trade mission to Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Doha, Qatar, June 5-10, 2010.

With a strong growing demand for healthcare and water and waste management this mission will be important for any exporter looking to expand into the Gulf Region. Don't miss out on this great opportunity! Apply by March 31st, 2010!

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Unfortunately, the global economic crisis was not biased when it struck industries across the world.  Driven by high-rolling, high-ego aficionados, the art industry was impacted more than one would have expected.  With artworks ranging from just $500,000 to well into the millions of dollars, buyers who take interest in these unique items also felt the burn from the instability of the world markets and significant decrease in personal wealth.  As a matter of fact, in 2007 the art market was valued at $65 billion, down from $113 billion just five years before.  Today it is estimated to be as low as $50 billion.

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Since its establishment in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has made its primary priority to be the creation of a monetary union, and subsequently, a single currency across the region. The Gulf Cooperation Council is a trade bloc of six Arab nations residing in the Persian Gulf: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The GCC nations, excluding Oman and the UAE, have aimed for January 1, 2010 as a deadline for establishing a common currency. If the GCC is successful in establishing a single currency among their member nations, what implications could this have for them and the international business world?

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The University of Pennsylvania produces a great publication called Knowledge at Wharton, which provides in-depth analysis of current business topics. They recently came out with a 17-page Special Report on the affects of the oil bust on Middle Eastern economies. It covers several topics ranging from the region’s Sovereign Wealth Funds, to women’s rights, to business transparency.