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Canada appears to be taking the brunt of political and economic uncertainty occurring in North America. A potential renegotiation of NAFTA, US tax cuts, and a weakening oil and gas industry are leaving investors wary of future economic growth in Canada. This speculation appears to be a reality for Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who forecasted an average annual growth of 1.7% between now and until 2022. This is a rapid change of events for the country, who saw 3.7% economic growth in the past year and the jobless rate hitting a record low.

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This is the second post in a five-part blog series focused on the consumer products industry.

Adaptability, innovation, and differentiation are three important qualities consumer product (CP) companies must uphold in order to be successful in the ever-changing global market. The North American market upholds these ideas well through adapting technological improvements and having a good feel for the market climate. In turn with these abilities, the countries also work well with meeting the demands of their consumers, working through consolidating markets and executing strategies proficiently.

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According to The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, consumer confidence in the United States has increased three points, rising to 129.5 from 126.2 in October.  Consumer confidence has been steadily increasing over the past five months, and is now the highest American consumer confidence rate posted in the past 17 years.  Americans are becoming increasingly confident in their finances, and spending even more as we come into this year’s holiday season.  During the second quarter of 2017, consumer spending in the United States has increased by 3.3% to $11.8 trillion.  This rise in consumer spending is noteworthy, considering consumer spending makes up almost 70% of GDP.  Two-thirds of this spending is on services, almost one-fourth is on nondurable goods, while the rest is spent on durable goods.

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As Halloween week winds down, consumers across the nation will begin the process of slowly making a dent in a pile of over 600 million pounds of one of the world’s most coveted treats—candy.  Candy—also called confectionery and comprised of chocolate, sugar, and gum products—has been one of the most popular goods on the globe since 1894, with worldwide confectionery sales anticipated to increase 3.2 percent by 2022 and valued at 85.5 billion dollars in 2016.

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Recently, technology has been hitting many new sectors of everyday life from reading, media and now clothing. The bra industry plays a major factor in the economic impact of clothing and now is attempting to flourish even more with the new technology being implemented into innovative products.

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Part two of this week's five-part series on cash crops and the impact they have around the world. 

Cash crops are a major economic factor in almost every region of the world. In North America, there is a wide variety of cash crops that are grown and sold. The biggest cash crops in modern day America currently are corn and soybeans; which bring in about 50 billion dollars each. However, these fields have been ever-changing for the last two centuries. The first cash crop which helped America’s economy grow is tobacco. Tobacco grew very well in the early Thirteen British-American Colonies,  this crop was especially prevalent in Virginia, people would immigrate to come work in the tobacco fields. With the population growing and money coming back into the economy, the colonies began to grow rapidly. Cash crops were one of the main reasons the United States is where it is today. Production of tobacco was one of the major reasons the early British-American Colonies grew as large as they did due to the influx of money into their economy. By the year 1630, the amount of tobacco sent from the Colonies to Great Britain totaled about 1.5 million pounds a year.

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On April 26, United States President Donald Trump announced plans to "re-negotiate" the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. As related in a White House press release, the administration had intended to completely withdraw the U.S. from the trade deal, but was dissuaded from doing following conversations with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Peña Nieto. At present, NAFTA stands in its current form, although the U.S. has explicitly stated its desire for major changes to the trade deal. The situation is predictive of a potentially volatile future for NAFTA and trade relations between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

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Having lived in the United States since 1987, off and on, and then becoming a U.S citizen in 2004 after Sweden allowed dual citizenship starting in 2001, I’ve become entrenched in the “American” culture and way of live. I’m happy to live in the United States; it’s a great country with great opportunities, but it is not America!

America consists of 55 countries and territories, including of course the United States of America. The U.S.A. is the largest of the 55 entities, with more than 320 million people, followed by Brazil with about 205 million, Mexico with about 121 million, and then the population figures drop below 50 million for all other countries and territories. Colombia, Argentina, Canada, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and Ecuador - in that order – are in the top 10 most populous countries in America as well. These top 10 most populous countries in America make up about 88 percent of the total population of some 982 billion people in the region which, by continent, includes North America and South America.

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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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Following the call for safer labor conditions in an era of globalization, 17 major retail firms from North America have unveiled a plan to improve factory safety standards throughout Bangladesh. Bangladesh, which is the world's second-largest retail exporting nation and sends about 85% of its goods to the European Union and United States, has notoriously suffered from hazardous working conditions in its factories. Labor groups have estimated that it would take $3 billion USD to raise the safety standards of the country's factories to an acceptable level, which prompted firms from the U.S. and Canada to form the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. The Alliance's goals include donating over $42 million USD over the five years of the plan, and for inspections to be carried out in the estimated 500 factories that the North American retailers use in Bangladesh.

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One of the major events affecting the world right now is the tropical cyclone in North America known as Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Sandy was the largest ever Atlantic hurricane by diameter and affected many parts of the Caribbean and Mid-Atlantic including the countries of Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and the United States. Early estimates vary significantly, but most suggest total economic damages attributable to the storm to be over $50 billion, which would make Sandy one of the most destructive hurricanes on record. As of the publication of this post, over 150 fatalities have been confirmed as a result of the storm. The majority of damage from the disaster occurred on the United States east coast, where Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey and New York City. The impact on the economy from this disaster can be enormous, as natural disasters have been proven to drop GDP and economic growth significantly. The impacts due to this devastation in the world’s largest economy will have a profound impact on international business.

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Coface, a world leader in domestic and international trade receivable management, is hosting their annual Country Risk Meeting at the Sentry Center in New York City on Thursday, May 10, 2012.  Featured speakers include business leaders, economists, and forecasting analysts discussing the short-term economic situation on a region by region basis in North America for the rest of the 2012 calendar year.  They will focus on hot spots, booming regions, and the global economic power bases.  It is a wonderful event that spotlights major international trade and investment opportunities in today’s business arena.

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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.