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The main advantage for these two nations was their geography.
Both countries, of course, are at or near the Straits of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. This is a very strategic place and was even more strategic back in these days. In the times just before overseas exploration, a great deal of trade with the Orient (the Middle East and beyond) came through the Mediterranean. Spain and Portugal could prevent any other nation's ships from passing through the Mediterranean if they wanted to.
Portugal, in particular, also benefited from having a tradition of seafaring because of its geographical location (Italy and Germany, for example, would not have had much reason to go out in the open ocean). It also benefited from having a more stable monarchy than some other countries that could have been competitors.
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