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Bob Tallent
The Synergy Group

According to Forbes, the top 10 countries to do business with are as follows:

1. Canada – up from 4th last year. 
It has a population of 34 million, GDP growth of 3.1% and 39,400 per capita. It has shown impressive growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors that has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial and urban

2. New Zealand – up from 2nd last year. 
Its population is similar to Ireland at 4.3 million, GDP growth of 1.5% and 27,700 per capita.  Over the past 20 years its government has transformed New Zealand from an agricultural economy to a more industrialised, free market economy that can compete globally.  Inflationary pressures caused the central bank to raise its key rate steadily from January 2004 until it was among the highest in the OECD in 2007-08.  The economy fell into recession before the start of the global financial crisis and contracted for five consecutive quarters in 2008-09.  The economy displayed a 1.7% decline in 2009, but pulled out of recession late in the year, and achieved 2.1% growth in 2010.

3. Hong Kong – down from 2nd last year.
Its population is 7.1 million, GDP growth of 6.8% and 45,900 per capita.  It is a free market economy dependent on international trade and finance.  The mainland has long been Hong Kong's largest trading partner, accounting for about half of Hong Kong's exports by value. Hong Kong's natural resources are limited, and food and raw materials must be imported. As a result of China's easing of travel restrictions, the number of mainland tourists to the territory has risen from 4.5 million in 2001 to 22.5 million in 2010.  During the past 10 years, its service industry has grown rapidly while its manufacturing industry moved to the mainland, and in 2009 accounted for more than 90% of the territory's GDP.  GDP growth averaged a strong 3.8% from 1989 to 2010. Hong Kong's GDP fell in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis, but a recovery began in third quarter 2009, and the economy grew nearly 6.8% in 2010.

4. Ireland – down from 6th last year.
Its population is 4.7 million, GDP growth of -1.0% and 37,300 per capita.  One of the initial 12 EU countries and had GDP growth of 6% between 1995-2007, 3% in 2008, 8% in 2009 and 1% in 2010.  In 2008, Ireland fell into a recession.  Its previous recessions were in the 1980’s and then 1990’s.  Property prices in Ireland prior to 2007 rose more sharply than in any other developed economy and have since fallen by 50% or more.  Industry and services has taken over from agriculture as prominent sectors.  In 2010, the budget deficit reached 32.4% of GDP - the world's largest deficit, as a percentage of GDP - because of additional government support for the banking sector. In late 2010, the Government agreed to a €85 billion loan package from the EU and IMF to help further increase the capitalisation of its banking sector and avoid defaulting on its sovereign debt. The government also initiated a four-year austerity plan to cut an additional €15 billion from its budget.

5. Denmark – down from 1st last year.
Its population is 5.5 million, GDP growth of 2.1% and 36,600 per capita.  A modern market economy that features a high-tech agricultural sector, state-of-the-art industry with world-leading firms in pharmaceuticals, maritime shipping and renewable energy, and a high dependence on foreign trade.  It has a high standard of living and the economy is symbolised by extensive government welfare measures and an equitable distribution of income.  It has a comfortable balance of payments.  Like Ireland, Denmark's economy began slowing in 2007 with the end of a housing boom.  Housing prices dropped markedly in 2008-09.  The global financial crisis has exacerbated this slowdown through increased borrowing costs and lower export demand, consumer confidence, and investment.  Unemployment is low at 7.4%, compared to an EU average of 10.1%

6. Singapore – up from 7th last year.
Its population is 4.7 million, GDP growth of 14.5% and 62,100 per capita.  It has a highly developed and successful free-market economy which depends heavily on exports, particularly in consumer electronics, information technology products, pharmaceuticals, and on a growing financial services sector. Real GDP growth averaged 7.1% between 2004 and 2007. The economy contracted 1.3% in 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis, but rebounded nearly 14.7% in 2010, on the strength of renewed exports.

7. Sweden – same as last year.
Its population is 9.1 million, GDP growth of 5.5% and 39,100 per capita.  Sweden is not a member of the EU as a result of a vote in 2003.  For the whole of the 20th century, it was a neutral country and achieved a privileged standard of living as a result of hi tech capitalism and good welfare benefits.  It is dependent on foreign trade with timber, hydropower and iron ore being main components.  Privately owned firms account for about 90% of industrial output, of which the engineering sector accounts for 50% of output and exports. Agriculture accounts for little more than 1% of GDP and of employment.  The Swedish economy moved into recession in the third quarter of 2008 and growth continued downward in 2009 as deteriorating global conditions reduced export demand and consumption.  Strong exports of commodities and a return to profitability by Sweden's banking sector drove the strong rebound in 2010.

8. Norway – same as last year.
Its population is 4.7 million, GDP growth of 0.4% and 54,600 per capita.  Norway is not part of the EU as a result of a vote in 1994.  The country is rich in natural resources - petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals - and is highly dependent on the petroleum sector, which accounts for nearly half of exports and over 30% of state revenue.  While Norway has slipped to 9th position as an oil exporter, it is second-largest gas exporter.  Norway saves state revenue from the petroleum sector in the world's second largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at over $500 billion in 2010. After solid GDP growth in 2004-07, the economy slowed in 2008, and contracted in 2009, before returning to positive growth in 2010.

9. United Kingdom – up from 10th last year.
Its population is 62.7 million, GDP growth of 1.3% and 34,800 per capita.  After Germany & France, it is the 3rd largest economy in Europe.  Relative to EU standards agriculture is intensive, efficient and highly mechanised, producing about 60% of food needs with less than 2% of the labour force.  Even though it has large coal, natural gas, and oil resources, its oil and natural gas reserves are declining and the UK became a net importer of energy in 2005.  In 2008, the global financial crisis hit the economy particularly hard, due to the importance of its financial sector.  Sharply declining home prices, high consumer debt, and the global economic slowdown compounded Britain's economic problems, pushing the economy into recession in the latter half of 2008.

10. United States – down from 9th last year.
Its population is 313.2 million, GDP growth of 2.8% and 47,200 per capita.  It has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world.  US firms face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets and they are very prominent in technological advances in computers, medicine, aerospace and military equipment. It has a two-tier labour market in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits.  The merchandise trade deficit reached a record $840 billion in 2008 before dropping to $507 billion in 2009, and went back up to $647 billion in 2010.  The global economic downturn, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, investment bank failures, falling home prices, and tight credit pushed the United States into a recession by mid-2008.  GDP contracted until the third quarter of 2009, making this the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression. To help stabilise financial markets, the US Congress established a $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in October 2008.

Business & Finance - Business & Finance - World Economic Update

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