February 6, 2020 / 4:31 PM / 16 days ago

EU antitrust regulator stresses fair rules as Germany, France call for overhaul

FILE PHOTO: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz arrive to attend a joint news conference after a meeting in Paris, France, September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe’s future must be based on fair competition rules, EU antitrust regulators said on Monday, after Germany and France reiterated calls for a speedy overhaul of the bloc’s rules to help EU companies better compete with U.S. and Chinese rivals.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, Italian Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli and Poland’s Development Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz in a joint letter to EU competition and digital chief Margrethe Vestager called for proposals by the end of June.

Le Maire and Altmaier kicked off the debate more than a year ago after Vestager vetoed Siemens (SIEGn.DE) and Alstom’s (ALSO.PA) bid to merge their rail operations to face off Chinese competitors.

To mollify such concerns, Vestager has subsequently said she was looking to update various elements of EU competition rules to meet digital and green challenges and also reviewing guidelines on state aid and agreements between companies.

She will also issue rules in the coming months which will rein in U.S. tech giants’ market power.

Vestager’s spokeswoman said the letter from the four ministers would be taken into account in the debate.

“Europe’s future industrial, ecological and digital strategy must be based on fair competition,” spokeswoman Arianna Podesta said.

“Sound EU competition rules can enable pro-competitive cooperation, including data sharing and data pooling, support the growth and development of strong European companies, whether larger ones or SMEs, and further enable and support the greening of our economy.”

EU antitrust enforcers should take into account state aid provided to foreign companies, use interim measures to tackle online platforms’ dominance, reinforce advisory committees made up of national competition watchdogs and set up an independent scientific expert body to assist them, they said.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas in Paris; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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