Tracing the rise of global competition begins with a modest and inauspicious point: the rise of civilization. With civilizations came the first trade routes linking disparate communities through commerce. As time progressed, those routes expanded along land and sea, through the air, and eventually across pathways of fiberoptic cable to link supply and demand. And so one could begin a discussion of global competition with the silk route, Spanish conquistadors, or even the triangle slave trade—certainly all three involved goods changing hands on an international scale with global repercussions.

But after speaking with a number of economists, academics, legal scholars, and business consultants we narrowed things down a bit, focusing the timeline around three trends: major policy agreements that removed international trade barriers; technological advancements which increased productivity and reduced the time it takes to travel or deliver goods; and products which, though we may not have known it at the time, heralded the rise of world trade. While there are doubtless treaties and innovations which we've left off the list—The Panama Canal? NAFTA?—we wanted to focus on things that both made international trade more efficient and more global—the items on this list did not just yield regional implications, they changed the world.

What dates do you think we should have included? How have these advancements in global trade affected your business?