Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Getting U.S. Companies Ready for Europe 1992

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Getting U.S. Companies Ready for Europe 1992

Article excerpt


What CPAs should know to help their companies--or clients--plan for the integrated EC market.

Europe is mounting a competitive challenge. In 1992, it will move closer to becoming a single market, larger in population than the United States and Japan combined. American industry cannot afford to ignore what is happening there and CPAs need to be informed about the changes the single market initiative (Europe 1992) will bring in order to help their companies or their clients deal with them.

A single European market will affect the operations of U.S. exporters and investors. The United States and the European Community (EC) are each other's largest trading partners. U.S. exports to the EC increased more than 14% between 1988 and 1989, to $86.6 billion, and this trend is likely to continue. More than 23% of U.S. exports are destined for the EC and more than 20% of EC exports come to the United States. The EC accounts for almost 40% of all direct U.S. investment abroad ($126.5 billion in 1988); in addition to Japan, the top investors in the United States include the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, West Germany and France.


The EC began in 1957, when Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed the Treaty of Rome, which called for the progressive removal of all tariff and nontariff barriers between the member states. By 1968, all tariff barriers within the EC had been eliminated and a common external trade policy established. Subsequently, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom joined, but little progress was made toward a fully integrated market.

Then in 1985 a white paper, Completing the Internal Market, detailing over 300 internal trade barriers that existed between the member states, was published. In 1987, the white paper's legislative program was formally adopted in the Single European Act (SEA) by all 12 member states. The SEA set December 31, 1992, as the target date for removal of all remaining barriers to the flow of goods, services, capital and people among member states. The framework for conducting business in Europe will be overhauled completely. By 1992, about 60% of the changes necessary for the single market should be in place. Others, particularly in fiscal and social policies, will be phased in during the rest of the decade.

Changes will occur in the areas of physical, technical and fiscal barriers. (See exhibit 1 on page 66 for an overview of the directives in each category.) When the barriers have been eliminated, the EC will be a unified market of 322 million people, offering many opportunities for U.S. companies to reap the rewards of an integrated market. However, new regulations could undermine U.S. exports to, and investments in, Europe. Companies that anticipate and respond to these regulations will be in the best positions to capitalize on opportunities in the new economic arena. The Europe 1992 legislative process is in the process of unfolding now and many directives that cover key issues for U.S. companies have already been adopted.


The SEA created a "cooperation procedure" to enable the EC's governing bodies to enact directives related to the Europe 1992 process (see the sidebar on page 74). A directive, after being drafted by the Commission and revised as necessary by the various governing bodies, is sent to the Council of Ministers for a final vote. On most nontax legislation, it is adopted if a qualified majority (two-thirds, or 54 out of 76 votes) is reached. This system prevents the larger member states from imposing their wills on the entire EC. The individual member states then transform an adopted directive into national laws or regulations. Votes are distributed among the member states based on population. This arrangement gives France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom 10 votes each; Spain, 8 votes; Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands and Portugal, 5 votes each; Denmark and Ireland, 3 each; and Luxembourg, 2. …

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