Europe is penalizing American companies

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

America’s working men and women work harder and are paid more than European workers, but our jobs don’t exist in isolation. In today’s global economy, many American jobs depend upon our U.S. businesses’ ability to sell products overseas.

We accept that there are jobs in Wisconsin that depend upon the success of American products internationally, and we want that success to be based on fair competition. Sadly, many of our European competitors simply aren’t playing fair, and in this international market, that threatens American jobs.

The European Commission – a body of unelected bureaucrats – wields the strong economic arm of Europe’s 25-country European Commission. This is a group that has taken to treating American businesses poorly when it comes to introducing their products into the European marketplace.

They say they are protecting Europe’s own business interests, but their approach is grossly unfair and reprehensible to anyone who understands the basic concepts of free and equal trade.

Take Microsoft. The company may be unable to sell its new Windows Vista software in Europe because the European Commission hasn’t provided guidance on what the software Vista may include in Europe.

Unlike American regulatory authorities, the E.C. regularly interferes in such business decisions, imposing huge fines on firms that fail to comply with its over-the-top demands. Recently, the E.C. required Microsoft to sell a version of its Windows software stripped of video and audio players popular with European consumers.

Other American innovations have been subject to similar unfair play by European authorities.  Apple has been required by the French government to share its popular iTunes software with its competitors so that iTunes can be downloaded onto competitors’ products. The effect of this is fewer sales for the American company, meaning fewer American jobs.

Intel Corp. is being investigated by the E.C. for offering loyalty bonuses to customers who buy products with Intel’s chips inside — prompting complaints from its competitors. Ridiculously, such offers, which are plainly beneficial to consumers, are deemed unfair competition by Intel’s European competitors and their allies at the E.C.

These and other abuses cost American workers jobs by restricting American companies’ abilities to sell products overseas. My union supports free trade, but trade has to be fair. Forcing American companies to part with their intellectual property or change their products to suit the complaints of the competition is a direct assault on ethical fair trade. 

It is time that our government stood up for American jobs and let our European competition know that we won’t stand for this unfair trade. In an age when it as easy to create a job in Mumbai, India, as it is in Madison, Wis., American workers can’t afford for our government to sit back and allow this to continue.

Ed Gray is the business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 127 and Secretary of the Southeastern Wisconsin Building and Construction Trades Council. He is a resident of Kenosha. He can be reached at  (262) 654-0912.

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