March 24, 2004 5:48 PM PST
U.S. politicos fire at EU's Microsoft ruling
The letter, signed by five Democrats and five Republicans, noted that "this case involves a U.S. company, that the complaining parties in the E.U. were primarily U.S. companies and that all of the relevant design decisions occurred in the United States." The signers included Robert Wexler, D-Fl., Dan Burton, R-Ind., Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.
Early Wednesday, the European Union ruled that Microsoft had failed to provide to rivals information they needed to compete fairly in the market and that the company has been offering Windows on the condition that it come bundled with Windows Media Player, stifling competition. The penalties levied include a requirement that Microsoft not give computer manufacturers discounts based on buying Windows along with Microsoft's Windows Media player.
While strongly worded by normal political standards, the letter itself did not explicitly ask that Europe back down. But in an accompanying statement, Reps. Wexler and Peter King, R-NY, went further in their criticism. "It is imperative that we maintain America's competitiveness," King said. "Today's ruling undermines the U.S.-E.U. comity agreement and will deter U.S. companies from participating in European markets. The E.U. should reconsider its ruling."
This is not the first time that the U.S. and the Europeans have clashed over antitrust enforcement. Hostilities erupted after the European Union vetoed the proposed General Electric-Honeywell merger, which U.S. regulators had already approved. President George W. Bush publicly criticized the veto, which was widely viewed as a protectionist move designed to help European competitors such as Airbus and Lufthansa at the expense of U.S. firms.
In addition, U.S. officials sometimes view Europeans as unabashed fans of big government. In November 2001, William Kolasky, deputy assistant attorney general at the time, complained in a speech that the "European Union comes from a more statist tradition that places greater confidence in the utility of governmental intervention in markets."
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