European Lawmakers Scold U.S. for Levying Charges of Digital Protectionism

“The political debates on the way forward are not a ‘Transatlantic rift’ and should not be made into one,” members of the European Parliament wrote.

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Justin Sullivan AFP/Getty
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
Sept. 22, 2015, 12:50 p.m.

BER­LIN—European law­makers are re­buff­ing charges from U.S. politi­cians that the con­tin­ent is en­ga­ging in sys­tem­at­ic “di­git­al pro­tec­tion­ism” in­ten­ded to thwart Sil­ic­on Val­ley’s glob­al dom­in­ance, ar­guing that talk of a “Transat­lantic rift” on data is­sues is over­blown des­pite on­go­ing reg­u­lat­ory chal­lenges for tech firms like Google and Face­book.

In a signed state­ment dated Monday but not yet of­fi­cially re­leased pub­licly, more than 50 mem­bers of the European Par­lia­ment say they are “sur­prised and con­cerned about the strong state­ments com­ing from U.S. sources about reg­u­lat­ory and le­gis­lat­ive pro­pos­als on the di­git­al agenda for the [European Uni­on].”

The state­ment, ob­tained from a tech­no­logy in­dustry source, calls out Pres­id­ent Obama by name be­fore adding: “The polit­ic­al de­bates on the way for­ward are not a ‘Transat­lantic rift’ and should not be made in­to one. Rather they rep­res­ent dif­fer­ent views and be­liefs that run right through our so­ci­et­ies.”

The re­buke comes just a day after France’s data-pri­vacy reg­u­lat­or re­jec­ted an ap­peal by Google that tried to lim­it the coun­try’s de­mand that Europe’s “right to be for­got­ten” from search in­dexes be ex­ten­ded glob­ally to all of Google’s do­mains. It also ar­rives just a month after Google re­spon­ded to Europe’s long-run­ning an­ti­trust probe of the search king, sharply re­but­ting the 28-mem­ber bloc’s ac­cus­a­tions as “wrong as a mat­ter of fact, law, and eco­nom­ics.”

U.S. law­makers have long sug­ges­ted that European reg­u­lat­ors are at­tempt­ing to use red tape and leg­al chal­lenges to wage war on Amer­ic­an tech gi­ants and give a leg up to their own com­pan­ies. Even Pres­id­ent Obama has lam­basted Europe’s re­sponse to the Ed­ward Snowden rev­el­a­tions, sug­gest­ing some of the out­rage over spy­ing in Ger­many and else­where may be some­what disin­genu­ous.

“In de­fense of Google and Face­book, some­times the European re­sponse here is more com­mer­cially driv­en than any­thing else,” Obama told the tech site Re/code in Feb­ru­ary. “We have owned the In­ter­net. Our com­pan­ies have cre­ated it, ex­pan­ded it, per­fec­ted it in ways that they can’t com­pete. And of­ten­times what is por­trayed as high-minded po­s­i­tions on is­sues some­times is just de­signed to carve out some of their com­mer­cial in­terests.”

The let­ter comes amid a weeklong pub­lic-re­la­tions cam­paign be­ing waged by Europe to con­vince the U.S. that pro­tec­tion­ism fears are un­foun­ded—an ef­fort that will cul­min­ate on Thursday with a speech from Gün­ther Oet­tinger, the European Uni­on’s com­mis­sion­er in charge of di­git­al af­fairs, due to be de­livered at the Cen­ter for Transat­lantic Re­la­tions.

“I see the Amer­ic­ans’ con­cerns, but I think they’re un­foun­ded,” Oet­tinger, who ar­rived in the U.S. Tues­day, told The Wall Street Journ­al this week­end. “Hav­ing a level play­ing field is my am­bi­tion.”

Also on Thursday, the European Com­mis­sion is ex­pec­ted to re­lease pub­licly a work­ing con­sulta­tion pa­per that dis­cusses for­ging a reg­u­lat­ory frame­work for on­line plat­forms, poli­cing against il­leg­al con­tent pos­ted on the In­ter­net, and ac­cess to data stored in cloud ser­vices. Draft cop­ies of the pa­per were leaked on­line last week.

“While we ad­mire the dy­nam­ism and suc­cess of Sil­ic­on Val­ley, we trust in Europe’s abil­ity to foster tal­ent, cre­ativ­ity and en­tre­pren­eur­ship,” the let­ter reads. “… We con­sider close co­oper­a­tion between the EU and the U.S. as vi­tal in a chan­ging world.”

What We're Following See More »
Trump: Time to Let Obamacare “Explode”
22 hours ago
At Trump’s Behest, Ryan Pulls Healthcare Bill
23 hours ago

Faced with a choice of Trump's way or the highway, the GOP chose the highway. In the worst possible development for the GOP, Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the healthcare bill from the floor for the second day in a row—even after President Trump demanded an up-or-down vote last night. According to multiple reports, Trump himself called Ryan at about 3 p.m. to tell him to cancel the vote. Trump has since blamed Democrats for the defeat. It's unclear when the legislation will be revisited.

Comey at White House Now
1 days ago
Nunes, Schiff Ask for Closed-Door Testimony on Russia
1 days ago

"House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said he and ranking Democrat Adam Schiff of California have asked FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers to testify behind closed doors about the committee's ongoing investigation into alleged ties between the Trump administration and Russia." He also said former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort will also testify.

Paul Ryan en Route to White House
1 days ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.