Global trade is expected to grow by leaps and bounds in coming years. What's already growing rapidly is the number of free trade agreements that companies have to keep track of when they're importing or exporting goods.

There are more than 500 free trade agreements, and William Methenitis, global director of customs and international trade at Ernst & Young, said the pace at which new agreements are being put in place is accelerating. "It has picked up in the last five years," he said. "In the last two or three years you've seen it grow quite a bit."

Each agreement sets out different rules for different types of products, so the proliferation poses a challenge for companies that import or export goods. "It's a huge data exercise to be able to analyze them," Methenitis said.

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Susan Kelly

Susan Kelly is a business journalist who has written for Treasury & Risk, FierceCFO, Global Finance, Financial Week, Bridge News and The Bond Buyer.