Everybody's heard that on January 1, 1999, the European Union (EU) will adopt the euro as its currency system. But what U.S. exporters might not realize is that it means doing business in European countries will get a lot more complicated.
"Companies have to prepare now for a far more competitive marketplace in Europe," says Thomas P. Mottley, an international trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce. "It's going to take some adjustment, but it can be done."
To start with, business procedures must be modified as soon as possible--think accounting, computer, marketing and payment systems. For instance, most U.S. businesses currently invoice European customers in U.S. dollars, get paid in dollars, and process letters of credit in dollars. "But European companies may now insist on payment in euros," Mottley explains. "If you want to do business in Europe, you need to be able to bill in their currency."
With only four months to go, the clock is ticking--so prepare to put forth time and money to modify your procedures. Because the EU is fast on its way to becoming the world's largest unified trade bloc, it will be an investment well worth it in the long run.