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The 21st century has marked a heightened sense of importance on reducing harmful pollutants and toxic gasses into the atmosphere. As a viable alternative, the spotlight has shifted to critical minerals, emerging as crucial resources on a global scale. Minerals like cobalt, copper, lithium, nickel and rare earth metals now play a pivotal role in the manufacturing of clean energy technologies, powering essential products such as wind turbines and electric cars. At the heart of this revolution lies the creation of the lithium-ion battery, a game-changing component driving the transition towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy landscape.

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For the first time since 2014, a worrisome development has occurred in China. Firms have taken more money out than they have reinvested back into the country. For years both foreign and domestic companies funneled their profits back into China. Now those profits are leaving the country, due to changing interest rates, rising wages and increased risk.

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Some of the most valuable shipping routes in the world are in the South China Sea, which is 1.4 million square miles in size. Developing conflicts in the South China Sea are having a significant impact on small businesses. Their location, industry, and reliance on the geographical region for business all influence how much of an effect they have. Around 80% of global trade is carried by sea, and estimates of the volume carried through the South China Sea range from 20% to 33%.

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The technology industry has seen a lot of ups and downs throughout the last three years, especially after the end of the pandemic. However, through the boom of technology created and engaged with during the pandemic, the tech industry is looking at a continuing rise of activity; but, is that truly what will happen?

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The usage of ethically made materials has been one of the biggest issues in the fashion industry. In particular, fast fashion brands such as H&M, Zara, Shein, and Romwe have been targets to move towards sustainable fashion and more ethical consumption. The newest issue on this front is dealing with the accusations that recently surfaced regarding the H&M Group profiting off of forced labor of the Uyghur people in the Chinese territory of Xinjiang.

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This is the fifth post in a five-part blog series focused on the energy industry.

The future of energy is often discussed in the news.  Many publications will say that the energy market’s future rests in one form or another but the future of the energy industry whole is difficult to predict because much of the future of energy is rooted in the policies of politicians. However, the Earth is not yet close to running out of these nonrenewable fuels so while there will be a need to fully replace the use of fossil fuels in our world at some point; running out of fossil fuels is not really the most pressing need at this time. 

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Growing up, many kids turned to ketchup to go with every meal, from hot dogs to mac and cheese to scrambled eggs. Now, the condiment of choice has turned into Sriracha. In the past 16 years, the hot sauce market, specifically Sriracha sauce, in America has increase by 165%, which makes the market one of the fastest growing industries in the United States.

Sriracha is now becoming a global phenomenon with over 200 tons produced a week worldwide. David Tran, the creator of the spicy condiment, never trademarked his creation which has created more success for his name sake. Many imitations are produced in countries such as France, China, and Australia, which are sold alongside the original sauce produced by Huy Fong Foods.

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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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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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As the violent protests and riots in Vietnam affect the country’s social harmony, the business climate is also being seriously impacted. Anti-Chinese riots erupted in Vietnam on Tuesday after the Chinese government placed an oil rig in disputed waters between the two countries, and by Thursday the riots had claimed at least 21 lives. Following mass demonstrations, some Vietnamese protestors began to loot and destroy Chinese businesses, and as the rioting intensified, the protestors started to target all foreign owned businesses. Along with Chinese establishments, Taiwanese, South Korean, Japanese, and Malaysian companies have all reported damages from the riots, which threatens to continue as emotions are still running high throughout Vietnam.

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When one strolls into their favorite coffee shop on a typical arctic-conditions day like the ones we've been enjoying in Michigan lately, they usually see coffee beans imported from well known "coffee countries," such as Colombia, Brazil, or perhaps an African country like Ethiopia, Kenya, or a rising coffee-exporting nation like Zambia. In spite of this, reports show that Vietnam is actually the world's second largest exporter of coffee, with its share of the global market rising nearly 20% within the last 30 years. Vietnam's coffee industry, which employs 2.6 million people, produced nearly 3 billion pounds of coffee in 2012-2013. The country's coffee exports have landed primarily in Germany and the United States, but imports from other European Union countries, as well as Japan and South Korea, have also contributed to Vietnam's rapid and surprising growth in coffee exports.

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Germany and Vietnam recently expanded their economic ties by signing financial cooperation and partnership pacts.  Last year bilateral trade exceeded 5 billion dollars between these two countries and Germany was Vietnam’s largest trade partner in the European Union.  These countries are not only looking to increase trade, but also to create welcoming working conditions for businesses in each other's country.  This partnership aims to benefit both parties in ways far beyond just trade.

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With its close proximity to Canada and Mexico, most United States exporters export to only one market and unsurprisingly this market is usually Canada. However, many smaller companies that work with the U.S. Commercial Service have found other great markets filled many new customers. Some of the best markets with countless opportunities for U.S. companies are Vietnam, India, Indonesia, India, China, Taiwan and Thailand. You can learn more about these markets by watching these videos on India, Indonesia, and Vietnam posted on the Export.gov website. With these videos, you will learn about some of the many sectors in these markets where U.S. companies are competitive. In the videos, you will also be introduced to the top U.S. commercial diplomats in these markets who will help your company evaluate and enter exciting new markets.

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Food prices have certainly become a hot topic recently, and so has food quality. With oil spills, nuclear waste scares, and natural disasters constantly threatening the quality of the world’s food supply, businesses have to be more careful with what food they sell. Still the exporting of food seems to continue to increase. Fish exports in particular have seen a huge increase in global demand.

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China is on the rise’ is a statement that we hear all too often. However, China’s growth does not only appear to be benefiting China alone. Vietnam has been able to use this neighboring country’s growth to benefit its own economy. Vietnam has a lot of appeal for international business and has begun to make a name for itself through China's success.

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As globalEDGE has discussed in the previous posts for this month’s blog series, not only are frontier markets growing extremely fast, they also have a lot of systematic risks. These risks can range from extremely prohibitive government regulations to a communist run government that feels it’s appropriate to expropriate private assets when it deems necessary. To transition to a stable growing economy these countries must remove these risks and increase its population’s education and consumption. These will create sustainable investment opportunities and the increase in consumer spending will continue to fuel economic growth.

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Indonesia and Vietnam have decided to team up to boost their local tourism. The two countries already have put effort into increasing the trade between them.  Indonesian companies have invested in over 20 different projects in Vietnam. Now, they want to continue into the tourism industry.

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While Vietnam’s largest export is textiles, seafood is often overlooked as another crucial product to Vietnam’s economic well-being. In June 2009, Vietnam and Japan signed the Vietnam-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, which effectively reduced and eliminated tariffs on a number of Vietnamese goods, one of which was dried seafood. In the past, high prices had deterred other Southeast Asian countries from buying Vietnamese seafood, but the tariff cuts, coupled with overall increased demands, have led to a boom in Vietnamese seafood exports.