US companies make one-third of their revenues from products marketed abroad, in places such as Asia and Latin America. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) further boosts export sales by enabling companies to sell goods at lower prices because of reduced tariffs. Regional trading blocs represent a group of nations that join together and formally agree to reduce trade barriers among themselves. NAFTA is such a bloc. Its members include the US, Canada, and Mexico. No tariffs exist on goods sold between member nations of NAFTA. However, a uniform tariff is assessed on products from countries not affiliated with NAFTA. In addition, NAFTA seeks common standards for labeling requirements, food additives, and package sizes.
One of the potentially interesting results of trade agreements like NAFTA is that many products previously restricted by dumping laws, laws designed to keep out foreign products, would be allowed to be marketed. The practice of dumping involves a company selling products in overseas markets at very low prices, one intention being to steal business from local competitors. These laws were designed to prevent pricing practices that could seriously harm local competition. The laws were designed to prevent large producers from flooding markets with very low priced products, gain a monopoly, and then raise prices to very high levels. In 1993, about 40 nations, counting the European Community as one, had anti-dumping legislation. Those in favor of agreements argue that anti-dumping laws penalize those companies who are capable of competing in favor of those companies that are not competitive.
Almost all the countries in the Western hemisphere have entered into one or more regional trade agreements. Such agreements are designed to facilitate trade through the establishment of a free trade area customs union or customs market. Free trade areas and customs unions eliminate trade barriers between member countries while maintaining trade barriers with nonmember countries. Customs Unions maintain common tariffs and rates for nonmember countries. A common market provides for harmonious fiscal and monetary policies while free trade areas and customs unions do not. Trade agreements are becoming a growing force for trade liberalization; the development of such agreements provides for tremendous opportunities for US companies doing business in Latin America and North America.
The creation of the single European market in 1992 was expected to change the way marketing is done worldwide. It meant the birth of a market that was larger than the United States, and the introduction of European Currency Units (Euros) in place of the individual currencies of member nations. Experience in multilingual marketing would help non-European companies succeed in this gigantic market. With new technologies such as multilingual processing programs, it would be possible to target potential customers anywhere in Europe, in any language, and in the same marketing campaign.
Progress toward European unification has been slow-many doubt that complete unification will ever be achieved. However, on 1 January 1999, 11 of the 15 member nations took a significant step toward unification by adopting the Euro as the common currency. These 11 nations represent 290 million people and a USD 6.5 trillion market. Still, with 14 different languages and distinctive national customs, it is unlikely that the EU will ever become the "United States of Europe”.
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