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EC Delegation member says Euro could benefit U.S.

April 08, 1999|By DON AINES

MONT ALTO, Pa. - In two years, engravings of kings, queens and national heroes will be gone from the currency of 11 European countries, to be replaced by a common currency that a European Union official said will benefit trade and tourism with the United States.

"The Euro is currently an electronic currency," William Burros told a group of students and faculty Tuesday at the Penn State Mont Alto campus. The currency was introduced on Jan. 1 but can only be used for electronic transactions, such as credit card purchases, he said.

That will change in 2002, when France, Germany, Italy and eight other countries begin replacing francs, marks and lire with billions of Euro-based notes and coins. Six months after the introduction, Burros said, Europeans will no longer be able to use their old currencies.

An information officer with the European Commission Delegation Office in Washington, D.C., Burros said Americans traveling in Europe will no longer have to exchange currency each time they cross a border.

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"That's an advantage for business, as well," he said, because the Euro will be worth as much in Portugal as it is in Ireland. That will also reduce confusion for consumers, he said.

The Euro will still float against the U.S. dollar - it's now worth about $1.09 - but Burros said it will be a more stable currency, aiding trade between this country and Europe.

"If you add up the trade in both goods and services and investments, it's well over $1 trillion a year" between the United States and the EU, he said.

Burros, an American, said trade is relatively balanced between the United States and the union. He said 75 percent of direct foreign investment in Pennsylvania comes from EU members.

Formed in 1993, the EU has a parliament to govern issues of trade, law enforcement, the environment and others. Burros said, however, the union "doesn't have a terribly well-defined defense identity."

Burros said defense policy on issues such as Kosovo will likely reflect that of NATO.

Membership in NATO does not mean membership in the union. Turkey is one country that is a member of NATO, but not the EU. Sweden and Finland are in the union, but not in NATO.

Burros said negotiations are under way to include Turkey and other countries in the EU.

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