The

American Stock Exchange

and the pan-European stock exchange

Euronext

announced a joint venture Wednesday to cross-list and trade U.S., European and other international exchange-traded funds, or ETFs.

As part of the venture, Euronext, created last September by the merger of the

Amsterdam

,

Brussels

and

Paris exchanges

, will be the exclusive European partner for cross-trading Amex-listed ETFs, while Amex will be the exclusive U.S. partner for cross trading Euronext's recently launched ETFs, called

Trackers.

The venture will also jointly promote ETFs and Trackers in Europe, including support of NextTrack, Euronext's ETF marketplace. The joint venture is part of Amex's efforts to create an international network of ETF marketplaces with the ultimate goal of achieving 24-hour global ETF trading.

At a press conference Wednesday, Amex Chairman and Chief Executive Salvatore Sodano said the joint venture is awaiting regulatory approval, but he expects it to be up and running this year.

Sodano added that the products with the greatest promise of success will most likely be listed first on the exchanges but that eventually, all of the exchange-traded funds on the Amex and Euronext are expected to be cross-listed.

"One of the basic goals is to open access to any products anywhere in the world and let the marketplace decide which products are successful," said Sodano.

The Amex also has a joint venture with the

Singapore Stock Exchange

to trade Amex-listed ETFs in Singapore, which it expects to begin this spring.

Exchange-traded funds have emerged as an attractive alternative to mutual funds because of their cost efficiency and ease in trading. Like stocks, ETFs can be bought and sold throughout the trading day and have low expense ratios, because they track fixed indexes or baskets of stocks. ETFs held around $70.3 billion last year, almost double the $35.9 billion in assets at the end of 1999.

Despite a flurry of new ETFs introduced in the U.S. last year, the majority of assets and trading volume were

seen in

S&P 500 SPDR

(SPY) - Get Report

and the

Nasdaq 100 Trust

(QQQ) - Get Report

.

The Euronext exchange is relatively new to the ETF market. The exchange launched two of its Trackers series of ETFs last month, which so far have garnered 150 million euros in assets (around $140 million), according to Euronext Chairman and Chief Executive Jean-Francois Theodore.

ETFs listed on the Euronext include the

Master Share CAC40

, which tracks the Paris Stock Exchange's

CAC 40 Index

and the

LDRS

, which tracks the

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50

and

Dow Jones Stoxx 50

, two European blue-chip indexes.