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EU competition chief welcomes “renewed” antitrust debate in Washington

There is a “renewed debate” on antitrust issues in Washingto..

There is a "renewed debate" on antitrust issues in Washingto..

There is a "renewed debate" on antitrust issues in Washington, according Europe's top competition chief Margarethe Vestager.

The head of the EU competition watchdog who has made several rulings in regard to US tech giants this year said she has noticed the change on both sides of the political divide, with democrats tabling new proposals on antitrust and the Republicans "debating [it] more intensely”.

"I can't remember when that's happened before," said Vesatger, speaking at a tech conference in London on Thursday.

"I don't know what they will conclude… But it's very interesting to see that they have renewed the debate about antitrust, concentration, business power, and we'll see how it ends”.

Washington has criticised the action of the regulator in Europe, accusing Vestager of unfairly targeting US companies in the past. The commission has taken action against Apple, McDonalds and Starbucks on tax matters recently.

But Vestager denied there was a conflict with the US and that there was no evidence of bias, having looked into the claims.

"Of course I take it seriously when people say we have a US bias. So I've been going through decisions and our statistics, to see if we find bias, and I simply don't find it. Not in our fines, not in out decisions, not in our merger control. There is a US university which has been going through thousands of merger decisions. They don't find a bias either."

And she expressed confidence that Apple would pay up the €13bn of back taxes to Ireland which the competition chief ruled it owed. Despite a fight against the decision by both the tech company and the Irish government and Vestager having to escalate the matter to the European courts, she cited the similar cases of Starbucks and Fiat which paid back taxes to the Netherlands and Luxembourg, respectively.

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