President Donald Trump has criticised the EU for bringing antitrust action against large American technology companies, saying such lawsuits should be instigated instead by the US.
Mr Trump, speaking to Fox Business on Wednesday, hit out at Margarethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner, and hinted that he could back action against some of the largest technology companies in the US.
“She hates the United States perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met,” said Mr Trump. “What she does to our country. She’s suing all our companies. We should be suing Google and Facebook, and all that.”
He added: “They’re suing Apple. They’re suing everybody.”
Mr Trump made similar comments earlier this month when he told CNBC the US should be taking the same approach as the EU towards concentrations of power in the technology industry. “I think there is something going on in terms of monopoly,” he said.
The remarks will intensify pressure on companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, all of which are under scrutiny by US regulators for possible antitrust violations.
US antitrust enforcers have laid the groundwork for possible investigations into all four companies, carving up jurisdiction between the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as to which agency should look into which company.
This development has sparked intense lobbying in Washington, where some of Google’s critics, including TripAdvisor, Yelp and Oracle, are reportedly preparing to brief justice department officials on their complaints about the search engine company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Google itself, aware that it might become the first casualty of any concerted push to take antitrust action against Silicon Valley giants, has shaken up its lobbying team in Washington. The company has reportedly fired several of its largest external lobbying firms as it expands its own in-house public affairs team
Mr Trump also suggested the US should sue Twitter, which he has accused of unfairly limiting his follower numbers. “Twitter is just terrible, what they do. They don’t let you get the word out. I’ll tell you what, they should be sued because of what’s happening with the bias,” the president said.
He added: “These people are all Democrats, it’s totally biased toward Democrats. If I announced tomorrow that I’m going to become a nice liberal Democrat, I would pick up five times more followers.”
Major tech company shares stayed close to flat in early trading, in keeping with the broader market.
Mr Trump is not the first US president to question Ms Vestager’s pursuit of American tech groups. In 2015, President Barack Obama criticised the EU’s raft of antitrust and tax actions against Apple, Google and Amazon as driven by “commercial interests”.
But Mr Obama’s language was less vituperative, insisting that European politicians were pursuing US tech groups in order to support their domestic competitors rather than out of any hatred of the US.
At the time, Brussels called the criticisms “out of line”.