What if the euro fails? "There is a strong minority of very well-informed people, right across the academic and political spectrum, who would argue that there are too many inherent contradictions and problems with how this thing has been set up. And they expect it pretty much to crash," relates New York-based Tim Dwyer, national director of international human resource consulting services in KPMG Peat Marwick LLP's international executive services practice. However, only days before the Jan. 1 debut of the euro, Europe's highly promoted common currency, there's virtually no talk among U.S. and European executives of the European monetary union dissolving into disunion. The possibility isn't even in their contingency plans. The executives assume that the euro -- initially circulating among Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain -- will make it through three transition years and emerge in the year 2002 as the single replacement for such "traditional" currencies as the German mark, the French and Belgian francs, and the Italian lira. "To start planning for a euro meltdown is quite a bit premature," states Anthony Marsicovetere, a senior manager in KPMG's federal tax group, New York. Indeed, the first-year reality for the euro lies somewhere between a flawless performance and a disastrous debut. "The euro is going to go through a lot of pushing and shoving -- at least for the first year of its existence," confirms Alexandria, Va.-based Paul A. Laudicina, a vice president of A. T. Kearney Inc. and managing director of its Global Business Policy Council. The new European Central Bank, he says, will be pushing for a strong, stable currency even as the political heads of state shove fiscal and monetary policies in the direction of economic growth and social accommodation. But for firms doing business in Europe and willing to work within the new, unified monetary system, there's the promise of five major benefits, stresses Gregg Rusk, director of Grant Thornton LLP's Miami-based International Business Center.
- With companies freed from figuring costs and prices in several different currencies, the euro should encourage trade.
- Greater price transparency, a result of having one currency, should reduce the costs of doing business with Europeans.
- The common currency will lower entry barriers to the European market.
- The single currency will increase efficiency in marketing and distribution.
- The euro will eliminate foreign-currency hedging's costs and complexities.