Adam Kovacevich: Europe’s tech discrimination could reverse Pittsburgh’s rebound – TribLIVE

Ask anyone who lived in Pittsburgh in the ’80s, and they’ll tell you what failed economic policies looked like: shuttered plants, layoffs at Christmas and gutted neighborhoods.

But just as Pittsburgh rebounds to become a leading tech hub, the next set of global economic policies are being debated right here in the Steel City. Unfortunately, they could again hurt American workers.

On Wednesday, leaders from the U.S. and Europe, including U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, are meeting in Pittsburgh for the first U.S.-E.U. Trade & Technology Council meeting. Together, they’ll debate digital rules of the road that will toughen cybersecurity, strengthen consumer protections and govern how consumer data is used.

The meeting is welcome news. Trans-Atlantic alignment on tech regulation will help counter the closed, controlled technology models promoted by China and Russia.

But unfortunately, European leaders are abandoning the long-held principle that neither U.S. nor European laws should discriminate against the other’s businesses.

Take Europe’s recently proposed Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DMA singles out digital “gatekeepers” for regulation of online services. The criteria used to determine which companies qualify as “gatekeepers” were carefully drawn to encompass only five U.S. companies — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft — but no European or Asian companies.

The DMA would limit those companies’ products in Europe in ways that would give their competitors a leg up. It could stop Apple from pre-installing iMessage and FaceTime on the iPhone — but let Samsung phones install their own apps. It would stop Google from showing Google Maps in its search results — but allow Russian search engine Yandex to do that. And it would force U.S. companies to share their hard-earned technological advantages with would-be international rivals.

Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot, and the U.S. government was mandating that top European firms like Louis Vuitton, SAP and L’Oreal also sell products from their U.S. competitors Kate Spade, Oracle and Estee Lauder. Europeans would understandably howl in protest.

That’s exactly what U.S. officials should do. While a handful of American lawmakers should be applauded for speaking out, the upcoming summit is an important moment for the Biden administration to stand up for U.S. workers. American jobs are on the line.

Take it from the steel industry. Once upon a time, American steel looked unstoppable, a lot like tech today. For two decades in the 1940s and ’50s, American workers produced nearly half of all the world’s steel. But a nationwide failure to invest in modernization of the industry allowed foreign competitors to gain the upper hand. Instead of focusing on the future, policymakers pursued failed antitrust cases against companies like U.S. Steel. Seventy years later, our leaders are trying to rescue what remains of the industry.

Now American tech companies are having a steel moment. Our businesses, including the robotics firms, autonomous vehicle companies, and other digital services that call Pittsburgh home, are booming.

The tech industry shouldn’t be exempt from regulation. Stronger data privacy and security rules are long overdue in today’s online world. But to stay competitive, American workers also need our leaders to stand up against Europe’s assault.

At the upcoming U.S.-European summit, American delegates will be just a few miles from the old site of U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works, where 15,000 Pittsburgh-area employees used to clock in. The smokestacks that still stand there today are a powerful symbol. U.S. policymakers failed Pittsburgh when it was a steel city, and now that Pittsburgh is a tech hub, it’s essential that they not fail again.

Adam Kovacevich is CEO and founder of the Chamber of Progress (progresschamber.org), a new center-left tech industry policy coalition promoting technology’s progressive future.

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