Oettinger stateside, building bridges while carrying a big stick

Digi Commissioner chewing the fat with Google, Facebook, Apple et al

Gunther Oettinger, EU digital commissioner. Pic: Jennifer Baker

Europe’s gaffe-prone digi Commissioner Günther H-dot Oettinger is in the US this week to meet top tech companies, start-ups and policy makers, promising to ask those tricky regulation questions.

Kicking off his five-day trip in San Francisco, Oetti, the Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, will meet senior staff from Facebook, Google, Apple and eBay on Wednesday.

With all of those companies facing either competition investigations, regulatory pressure, or court cases in Europe, the top brass may well want to have a few words in Oetti’s ear. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg are amongst those on the schedule.

“I know that many in the US are worried that our aim with the Digital Single Market is to benefit only European companies. I will be listening very attentively to these concerns, and will discuss with an open mind,” said Oettinger.

The car-mad Commissioner will also squeeze in a visit to Mercedes-Benz North America Research Centre.

Thursday and Friday, he heads to Washington to meet policy makers including Federal Communications Commission chairman, Tom Wheeler, US Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker and Under Secretary Stefan Selig as well as Cathy Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment.

The Commission is due to launch a consultation on the role of internet platforms in the coming weeks, with a view to legislative overhaul.

“I will be very clear with all my interlocutors: no political decision on this matter has been taken yet. Europe is ready to listen to the concerns and suggestions of the US, but we will not be lectured or pressured to back off from asking tough questions, nor impressed by cheap claims of over-regulation,” said Oettinger.

Last Friday, the more measured Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip said that he believes the tech communities “on either side of the Atlantic can help each other. Their goals are the same: to expand into new markets by scaling up beyond their borders and to expand their individual businesses, by forging new relationships with their customers, end-users and suppliers, with their partners, developers and data source providers".

Oetti’s final stop on Saturday is in New York to participate in the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development meeting. Next week he takes the charm offensive to China. ®




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