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For businesses engaged in global trade or those just considering an international strategy, it is critical to research and assess the economic, social and political conditions of potential new markets as well as the trade policies, history and outlook of your home country. In this post and in following segments, we will take a closer look at key markets across the globe.

Free trade agreements have helped fuel business growth, raising living standards here in the United States and allowing American families to gain access to affordable goods and services. Ultimately, by removing barriers to trade, these agreements have allowed even the smallest U.S. companies to compete and thrive on a global scale, gaining access to some of the 95 percent of consumers who live outside of our borders.

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The United States has free trade agreements currently in force with 20 countries. While the U.S. economy is the largest in the world, meaning that the domestic flow of goods often takes precedence due to sheer size, international trade is a critical component of the economy. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the , Small Business Administration trade accounts for 30 percent of the U.S. economy, and U.S. exports of goods and services reached $2.3 trillion in 2014.