Sunday

15th Dec 2019

EU anti-trust chief 'hates' US, Trump says

  • Competition commisioner Margrethe Vestager ordered injunction on Broadcom's 'exclusivity contracts' (Photo: Tambako the Jaguar)

US president Donald Trump has accused EU anti-trust chief Margrethe Vestager of "hating" the US after she opened a case against another American tech giant.

"You have a woman in Europe [Vestager], I won't mention her name ... she hates the United States perhaps worse than any person I've ever met," Trump said on a talk show by the Fox News broadcaster on Wednesday (26 June).

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  • US president Donald Trump (r) with outgoing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker

"What she does to our country. She's suing all our companies ... They [the EU] are suing Apple for billions of dollars. They're suing everybody," he added.

"They make it almost impossible to do two-way business," he said.

He spoke after Vestager earlier the same day in Brussels accused US microchip-maker Broadcom of breaking EU rules.

"We suspect that Broadcom ... has put in place contractual restrictions to exclude its competitors from the market," she said.

"This would prevent Broadcom's customers and, ultimately, final consumers from reaping the benefits of choice and innovation," she added.

Her complaint alleges Broadcom forced modem and TV set-top box makers to buy its components under "exclusivity contracts" and Vestager is seeking to freeze the agreements "to avoid ... risk of serious and irreparable harm to competition".

The US company denied wrongdoing, saying "it complies with European competition rules" and "the commission's concerns are without merit".

The Broadcom case comes after Vestager went after US tech giant Apple, software firm Google, and chip-maker Qualcomm in recent years.

She forced Apple to repay €14bn in state aid. She fined Google €8bn for abusing online dominance and she fined Qualcomm €1bn.

The Danish liberal has made her name on the world stage as the EU's iron lady and is in the running to be the next European Commission president.

EU regulators have also voiced concern on data privacy at Google and US social media giant Facebook.

And a French consumer group, UFC Que Choisir, filed a lawsuit in Paris against Google also on Wednesday, opening up a new front.

The group wants Google to pay €1,000 each to 200 users who say it violated their rights under the general data protection regulation, a landmark EU law.

The US firm said: "We have high standards for transparency and consent [on use of private data] based on both guidance from regulators and robust user testing".

But the symbolic fine could become huge if a Paris court ruling paves the way for millions of other users to go after the company.

The trouble in the tech sector comes amid broader EU-US friction on free trade after Trump imposed tariffs on some EU exports.

It also comes amid a general slump in US relations after Trump walked away from other EU-brokered deals on nuclear arms control and climate and verbally mauled Europe and its leaders on several occasions.

Trump added on Fox News on Wednesday that something ought to be done to curb the tech firms' growing power, however.

"We should be suing Google and Facebook, and all that, which perhaps we will," he said, claiming a US prerogative to regulate US firms.

Online retailer Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google "should be sued", Trump said.

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