The New World Order. Some charge it's an empty slogan. Others say it's a blueprint.

Whatever it is, one thing is certain: The post-Cold War world is being shaped by the forces of the New Economy. These include globalization of markets, the rise of trading blocs in Europe, Asia and North America and the increasing aggressiveness and success of small and medium-size business in international trade.Paralleling these economic changes are political changes - a surge of ethnic nationalism and decentralization. It's the global political equivalent of niche markets.

As a result, national authorities find themselves increasingly in the role of supporting actors, if not bit players, in international commerce.

In the United States, state and local governments spend more to promote international trade than the federal government does. More than 40 states have overseas trade offices and nearly all run trade missions. In the United States most ground rules for foreign investment are controlled by the states.

In Canada, the strongest support for the U.S.-Canada free trade agreement (FTA) came from Quebec, the province most disgruntled with Canada's central government. In fact, it was Quebec's support of the FTA that helped swing its approval in a close election.

U.S.-Mexican commerce is dominated by activities in the six Mexican border states - Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.

Even trade between the United States and the Soviet Union is promoted by representatives of the individual Soviet republics. They urge U.S. business leaders to do their business development activities directly with the republics and to partner with the republics to do their political business with the central Soviet government.

All of this is possible, in part, because new technologies - especially telecommunications - allow people to develop business relationships without traditional review by national governments.

And in the process porous borders are replacing iron curtains, not just in Eastern Europe, but around the world.

During his recent visit to the United States, Polish President Lech Walesa announced that Americans would no longer need visas to visit his country or do business there.

In the New Economy, border checkpoints are symbols of weakness, not strength. And faxes do not need passports.