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"The U.S. economy has turned down sharply. Risks continue to be to the downside," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson explained at a Council of Institutional Investors conference last week. But just because we're going through a hard patch here at home doesn't mean your portfolio needs to take a hit.

Buy American? Not Today.

"Buy American." It's a battle cry that's been used by domestic auto manufacturers like

Ford

(F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report

and

GM

(GM) - Get General Motors Company Report

for decades. However, ask our country's top corporate executives, and chances are, you'll hear that sentiment isn't true for stocks -- at least, so far this year.

"There is no growth in the

U.S. economy right now,"

FedEx

(FDX) - Get FedEx Corporation Report

CEO Fred Smith told

Reuters

in an interview last week.

TheStreet Recommends

So where's the growth? As it turns out, things are mostly going on overseas.

GE

(GE) - Get General Electric Company Report

CEO Jeffrey Immelt explained things in a Friday, April 11 interview on CNBC: "Outside the United States, we're just not seeing a slowdown yet... the global markets remain robust."

If you're looking for a way to take some of that domestic economic sting out of your portfolio, finding stocks with some significant international exposure might just be the ticket. Almost echoing Immelt, Smith said, "The only positive story in the U.S. economy right now is U.S. exports."

But that doesn't mean that you have to put your money in risky places. Developed economic powers like France and the United Kingdom have lots of potential for the investor looking for some global plays.

Finding these global stocks isn't always easy, so here's the lowdown.

Go Global With ADRs

If you want to invest in companies that have full international exposure, consider American Depositary Receipts (ADRs). An ADR is a certificate that trades on major American exchanges like the

New York Stock Exchange

or the

American Stock Exchange

, but represents ownership of a foreign company. The beauty of ADRs is that you can buy and sell them just as if they were shares of any U.S.-based company.

With listed ADRs, companies have to meet exchange requirements (for more on those, check out "

What Happens When My Stock is Delisted

"), and file with the

SEC

. So when you buy an exchange-traded ADR, you're buying a reputable foreign company whose financials are at least comparable to a domestic company.

A couple of examples of heavy-hitting ADRs are Chinese telecommunications company

China Mobile

(CHL) - Get China Mobile Ltd. Report

, Aussie mining company

BHP Billiton

(BHP) - Get BHP Group Ltd. Report

and Brazilian energy giant

Petrobras

(PBR) - Get Petróleo Brasileiro SA Report

.

However, not all companies with ADRs trade on major exchanges. Be wary of companies that trade

over-the-counter. "OTC" companies tend to be riskier than exchange-traded ADRs and might not be your best bet if you're trying to shore up your portfolio. (If you

are

interested in riskier international companies, check out "

How Do I Invest Overseas?

")

Emerging Returns With ETFs

ETFs

(exchange-traded funds) have long been a great way to add some international diversification to your portfolio. They're available for most regions and they provide a more diversified way to get into overseas stocks than ADRs.

The most popular international ETFs follow indices of foreign stocks, such as the

iShares MSCI Brazil Fund

(EWZ) - Get iShares MSCI Brazil ETF Report

, which tracks the

MSCI Brazil Index.

But don't think that you're relegated to emerging markets like Brazil to get a piece of the foreign ETF action.

Barclays'

(BCS) - Get Barclays Plc Report

iShares family of funds, for example, has ETFs out there for developed markets like France

(EWQ) - Get iShares MSCI France ETF Report

, Japan

(EWJ) - Get iShares MSCI Japan ETF Report

, U.K.

(EWU) - Get iShares MSCI United Kingdom ETF Report

and a plethora of other markets.

Another interesting new development in ETFs is the addition of currency-based funds that have sprung up over the past couple of years. With today's falling dollar, ETFs like the

CurrencyShares Euro Trust

(FXE) - Get Invesco CurrencyShares Euro Trust Report

are proving their value.

Mighty Internationals

Believe it or not, another way to add international exposure to your portfolio is by investing in domestic companies right here in the United States.

How?

The trick is to find companies such as GE,

Corning

(GLW) - Get Corning Inc Report

, FedEx, and

Hewlett-Packard

(HP) - Get Helmerich & Payne, Inc. Report

. Multinationals like these make

a lot

of their money overseas. And there are hundreds of them out there.

Wrigley Around the World

The

S&P

is down over 9% since January, but stalwart

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company

(WWY)

is

up

over 6% during the same time. Why? A big part of it is because the chewing gum company made almost 70% of its revenue outside of North America last year. Those two facts are no coincidence.

Now, ready to go multinational hunting?

You can find out about a domestic company's international exposure simply by skimming through its

annual report

and checking out the "sales by region" section.

Here is a look at Wrigley's international numbers (pulled from the annual report on the company's Web site).

Source: Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, 2007 Annual Report

Source: Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, 2007 Annual Report

Making International Plays Without Getting Played

As with any investment you make, one of the most important rules is "know what you own." Just because a stock has international exposure

alone

doesn't necessarily make a good investment case for it. Any stock you select has to stand on its own

fundamentals.

Jonas Elmerraji is the founder and publisher of Growfolio.com, an online business magazine for young investors.