Time to concede that the EU’s antitrust action was about Google, not America

Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.

Europe provides an entertaining vantage point from which to view the U.S. Department of Justice’s (very) long-awaited antitrust broadside against Google.

It really wasn’t so long ago that the EU was being accused of bias against American companies by whacking Google with what turned out to be the first of three major fines (totaling more than $9 billion) over its antitrust abuses. At the time, in 2017, lobbyists at the U.S. Consumer Technology Association said the actions of EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager were “driven by politics and protectionist policies that harm open-competition practices, consumers, and unfairly target American companies.”

“She hates the United States perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met,” complained President Trump of Vestager when the third fine rolled around a couple years later. “She’s suing all our companies. We should be suing Google and Facebook, and all that, which perhaps we will.”

And now Trump’s administration, backed by 11 Republican-led states, is indeed suing Google. It’s fair to say none of them hate the U.S. and its corporate titans, yet elements of their assault are really pretty similar to the EU’s complaints, particularly the accusation that Google entrenches its search monopoly by forcing manufacturers to use its own flavor of Android if they also want to use its Play app store and other key services. The DOJ even cites the crowding-out of Amazon’s failed Fire OS Android variant, just like Vestager did.

There are huge differences between the cases, of course—for one thing, U.S. antitrust suits have to demonstrate evidence of negative impacts on consumers, while in the EU it’s sufficient to say that a market-dominant player’s policies have the potential to cause consumer harm. But nonetheless, it should now be clear that attacks on Google are motivated by its size and behavior, rather than its country of origin.

For more Fortune comprehensive coverage of the DOJ suit, check out Aaron Pressman’s explanation of the key points, Danielle Abril’s rundown of Google’s defense, David Z. Morris’s piece on possible remedies for the alleged abuses, and Robert Hackett’s report on reaction from politicians and Google’s rivals.

Also, Fortune’s latest Most Powerful Women International list is out today (the U.S. list came out earlier this week.) Last year’s No. 1, Banco Santander executive chair Ana Botín, is down to No. 3, and GlaxoSmithKline CEO Emma Walmsley has retaken the top spot.

The U.K.’s GSK is of course one of the big hopes (in collaboration with French competitor Sanofi) in the race to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s also worth noting that this year’s No. 2 place goes to Jessica Tan, co-CEO and executive director of China’s Ping An Group—an insurer whose telehealth and smart-city arms are both benefiting from the behavioral changes that result from the pandemic.

More news below.

David Meyer


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