The layout is a problem too, there's one entrance into any city, this creates a huge bottleneck. This destroys global market shipments making it difficult to unlock the trade port to help.
You can easily unlock trade options by simply placing lots of storage of what you're trying to sell, and selecting use locally. As long as you're not actually using the materials, you can simply switch to export when storage is full. I unlocked the electronics HQ upgrades this way myself.
Brushes with death are like snowflakes; each one is unique, and if you have enough of them you can make a snowman.