We know that since shareholders of Euronext and the NYSE Group (NYSE:NYX) have approved their merger, we can look forward to the first trans-Atlantic exchange. There has also been talk of a partnership between the NYSE and the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).

According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun, the NYSE and TSE are not exploring a merger, but they are considering an alliance that will include cross-ownership of shares (when the TSE goes public in 2009) and joint investments in trading systems. The end product of such an alliance should eventually mean that investors in the U.S. and Japan will have many additional investment opportunities. This also means the NYSE and TSE should see greater trading volumes and, thus, more profits.

While a formal alliance won't offer much right away, it's a great development for investors, because the TSE is the world's second-largest market. And although American depositary receipts provide easy access to a number of great companies in Japan, even more are currently available to U.S. investors only via the pink sheets. For many investors who want to look beyond giants Toyota Motors (NYSE:TM), Sony (NYSE:SNE), and Canon (NYSE:CAJ) to both smaller and large companies that do not have level-two or -three ADRs, such as Kao, Toto, and Fast Retailing, the pink sheets work fine. While some brokers handle these trades better than others do, all brokers do a good job of handling trades through the NYSE.

The alliance is also important to the TSE in a regional sense, because of the growth in China and the attention the Hong Kong and Shanghai exchanges have been receiving from investors in the region. I have also seen recent articles in the Daily Yomiuri indicating that, in addition to exploring an alliance with the NYSE, the Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Sapporo, and Jasdaq exchanges, which already have various levels of cooperation between them, will come together under one holding company to simplify trading, regulation, and management.

Perhaps the most interesting idea I have seen floating around is the creation of a special financial district in Tokyo to attract foreign financial institutions. Under such a plan, it is possible that foreign companies wishing to raise equity or debt capital in Japan would be able to submit the required regulatory documents in English. It remains to be seen whether this will happen, but if coupled with an alliance with the NYSE, it should make the TSE and Japan more attractive to foreign investors.

The tie-up with Euronext will certainly bear fruit sooner than a tie-up with the TSE will, but the overall trend of the world getting smaller and information traveling more freely is positive not just for investors but for global citizens as well. The more open, free, and competitive the markets are, the more sharing of products and services is likely to occur -- and most likely, at lower cost. I'm very much looking forward to how investing will look 10 to 20 years from now and the additional options available to us.

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At the time of publication, Nathan Parmelee had no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned. NYSE Group is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.