EU tech policy is not anti-American, Vestager says

EU digital and competition policy chief Margrethe Vestager rejected the idea that her upcoming Digital Markets Act (DMA) would only target US tech companies.

She spoke after the The White House has warned Brussels that the tone around its new flagship technology policy sent a negative message and suggested that the EU “is not interested in engaging in good faith with the United States” on the challenges posed by large technology platforms.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Vestager, who met President Joe Biden during his visit to Brussels this week, said: “The [DMA] is not directed towards certain companies or towards certain nationalities of companies.

The DMA sets new rules for platforms deemed large enough to be “gatekeepers”.

“What we developed in trying to figure out who should be in the scope and who should be a possible gatekeeper was about market effects,” Vestager said.

She said the bill, which will now be debated by the European Parliament, focuses on the “market effects” of Big Tech’s dominance over smaller rivals.

She suggested that the criteria developed by the EU would help define a broader goal than just Silicon Valley’s biggest companies: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. “We have made this proposal with a broader scope for good reasons due to market effects,” she said.

Vestager’s comments will be seen as a way for Brussels to try to ease tensions between the EU and the US at a time when both sides seek to rebuild transatlantic relations after four turbulent years under Donald Trump.

But last month Andreas Schwab, the German MEP who will help guide DMA legislation in the European Parliament, said US tech companies were “the biggest problems.”

“Let’s focus on the biggest problems first, the biggest bottlenecks. Let’s go further – one, two, three, four, five – and maybe six with [China’s] Alibaba, ”he said.

The US administration has come under pressure to be tougher on EU plans to regulate Big Tech. The co-chairs of the US digital commerce caucus recently warned against EU legislation that could “”disproportionate harm American technology companies ”.

However, despite rhetoric accusing the EU of unfairly targeting US companies, the US government has appointed harsh critics of Big Tech to crucial positions of power. Just last week, Lina Khan, a staunch supporter of dismantling American businesses, was appointed chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

Separately, the US House of Representatives tabled five bills which, in some parts, are even stricter than the Brussels bill. Observers point out that the US and the EU face a similar challenge of taming companies that have become “too big to care”.

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