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Trading Up?

Free trade deals offer a world of possibility for entrepreneurs.

This story appears in the June 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

After this fall's collapse of World Trade Organization (WTO) global trade liberalization talks, businesspeople worried that progress on trade was stalled. But the Bush administration has pushed forward with a raft of bilateral trade deals. Recently, the government has signed free trade deals with Chile, Morocco, Singapore and four Central American nations. Free trade agreements with Australia, Bahrain, Thailand and a bloc of southern African nations are also in the works. These deals slash nearly all tariffs and other trade barriers.

These deals help small businesses more than large companies, economists say, because many entrepreneurs don't have the resources to compete in a more closed foreign economy. And each country offers entrepreneurs specific opportunities. Australia and other Southeast nations are poised for strong economic growth in 2004, making them prime consumers of U.S. goods, says Walter Lohman, executive director of the US-ASEAN Business Council, a trade group.

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