The world's newest currency is only just over a month old, but is already finding itself at the centre of a debate that has important implications for the whole world. In the long preparation for the launch of Europe's common currency on January 1, the accent in the 11 countries concerned was on stability, tight budgets and all the virtues long enjoyed by Germany's powerful mark. The way in which that anti-inflationary emphasis has permeated the continent's new European Central Bank has been shown again by its refusal to cut interest rates - despite the half-point reduction in Britain last week. That approach may cheer hard-money enthusiasts in Frankfurt, but it brings to the fore a question increasingly being asked both in Washington and by Asian countries - what is Euroland going to do to help the world economy to expand? With the East Asian economies likely to remain stagnant, at best, for some time, any bounce in the international economy has come to depend very largely on the United States, the world's consumer of last resort with a trade deficit forecast to rise to US$272 billion this year. Nobody knows how much longer the American boom can continue, or whether Alan Greenspan, Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin have evolved a new paradigm on unending growth. But it would obviously be unwise to bank on current growth rates continuing indefinitely. In which case, the obvious second engine of expansion should come into play - from Europe. The case for cutting European interest rates and putting more emphasis on growth is strengthened by recent forecasts which show major economies, such as Germany and France, slowing down. Both these two major countries also badly need the job creation that would flow from more expansionary policies in order to lower their high unemployment rates. But the European Central Bank's determination to fight inflation and ensure that the euro is as hard a currency as possible stands in the way, despite the evident desire of the social democratic governments in Germany and France to loosen the monetary belt a notch or two. Now that the euro has been successfully launched, it looks like time to let the politicians have more of a say, and for the bankers to relax a little. That could only help Asian exports if and when the American miracle loses its sheen.