EU's Record $5 Bil 'Antitrust' Fine On Google Is Really Just More Anti-U.S. Protectionism

Unfree Trade: In what has now become a tiresome routine, European Union “Competition Commissioner” Margrethe Vestager has once again slapped an American company with a massive fine for the heinous crime of out-competing EU companies. The EU complains about U.S. tariffs, but this move to punish Google with a $5 billion antitrust fine is straight up protectionism.

“Stop this behavior,” Vestager told the firm. What behavior is that? Giving consumers ever-more options for their tablets, phones and computers at a lower price? The fine, after all, is for “abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating system.”

The argument is that by giving consumers a whole bunch of stuff together, like the Chrome web browser, Gmail and Google search, consumers are being harmed.

Of course, that’s a crazy assertion, since consumers had no access to any of these things until Google provided them. Vestager should be called the “Anti-Competition Commissioner,” since her decision to fine Google only helps its European competitors, not EU consumers.

“Harmful competition,” as the European Union calls it, is an empty phrase. Any competition in which one competitor bests another can be called “harmful,” since there’s a winner and a loser.

In the case of the EU, many firms there have lost their battles with American firms over market share. They whine, the EU reacts, and American firms pay up.

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But this is how EU protectionism now works. And it’s a big reason why President Trump, whether you agree with his tariffs or not (and for the record, we don’t), is at least not a hypocrite in imposing them.

The EU talks a good game about globalism and free trade, but then subverts those very ideas with non-transparent protectionist actions like massive fines on U.S. tech champions.

As we said, this seems to be the EU’s new modus operandi. Consider its recent GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) initiative, which forced U.S. companies to scramble to comply or be cast out of the EU market.

GDPR masquerades, and quite convincingly, as “protection” for beleaguered tech users. And to be honest, not all of its provisions are bad. People should have control over how others use their personal data — or, even, whether others use their data.

But the EU’s GDPR initiative also imposed massive costs on U.S. businesses that now operate in the EU. So far, U.S. companies have spent upwards of $8 billion to comply, and those costs will continue to rise. Such regulation and fines inevitably work to disadvantage U.S. firms operating in Europe, and to protect EU companies.

Again, protectionism.

This, of course, adds powerful incentives for U.S. companies to relocate parts or all of their operations in the EU simply to avoid fines or sanctions. That’s the EU’s idea of competition. It’s part of the disturbing pattern on the part of the EU to use enormous “fines” as punishment for mere EU bureaucratic violations.

And it pretty much amounts to a bureaucratic “shakedown,” as Forbes Online accurately called it.

No, the U.S. isn’t clean. The U.S. has a tariff war brewing. But that’s at least transparent. These attacks on Google and other U.S. tech giants, including Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, amount to little more than trade protectionism – deceptively dressed up as benevolent EU consumer protection. It doesn’t end there. They’ve even gone after McDonald’s.

Going For Google

This isn’t the first time the EU has harassed Google, either. Last summer, the European Union imposed a $2.7 billion fine on Google because it “abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors.” And as far back as 2014, EU leftist bureaucrats were calling for Google to be “broken up.”

One of the problems the so-called international order has is its blatant and at times destructive hypocrisy. Google is a classic example. The EU takes billions of dollars from American companies to make up for its own anti-competitive deficiencies. It does so in the name of  “antitrust.”

There’s a reason no major European economy today grows at even close to 3% per year. The EU no longer believes in the very ideas it first fostered, those of free markets and free competition. It’s one thing to find genuinely illegal or fraudulent behavior, quite another to punish competitors for winning.

The European Union, in its repeated attacks on Google and other U.S. companies, clearly wants to “level the playing field” by hobbling its competitors, not by competing in the marketplace.

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