December 13, 2023

Warren, Klobuchar, Scanlon, Lawmakers Urge President Biden to Continue Supporting Efforts to Rein in Big Tech, Reject Lobbying

Lawmakers: EU’s Digital Markets Act Reflects Biden Administration's Pro-Competition Priorities

Text of Letter (PDF) 

Washington, D.C.  – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and U.S. Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to continue to reject any trade or policy proposals from Big Tech that deem the Digital Markets Act (DMA) to be discriminatory or an illegal trade barrier, in order to protect the administration’s shared pro-competition priorities with its European Union allies. 

“We are concerned that opponents of your [competition policy] agenda are continuing their efforts to use trade-related attacks to undermine our allies’ efforts to rein in abuses by major technology companies. We urge you to continue to reject claims that the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) constitutes an illegal barrier to trade. The DMA will protect consumers and spur competition in the tech industry. The United States’ trade policy must support the European Union’s efforts to rein in Big Tech and facilitate similar American policies, rather than impair them,” wrote the lawmakers

The lawmakers praised the Biden administration’s actions to combat the abuses of Big Tech. After issuing a government-wide order directing agencies to promote all sectors of the economy, regulators across the administration took action to protect consumers, workers, and small businesses, including in the tech sector. 

Last year the European Parliament adopted the DMA, groundbreaking legislation to ensure “fair and open markets.” DMA will ensure that innovators and small businesses can compete in the online marketplace without facing unfair terms and conditions. It will also empower consumers with more options, fairer prices, and better data protections. However, dominant online platforms are racing to weaken the DMA so they can continue their anticompetitive practices and skirt privacy protections. 

The lawmakers noted that Big Tech has used this playbook before: in their submissions for USTR’s 2022 National Trade Estimates report, Big Tech companies and their industry associations attacked other countries’ competition policies and other platform accountability laws that they oppose as illegal trade barriers. The lawmakers commended Trade Representative Katherine Tai for seeing through these ploys. 

“We were heartened to hear Ambassador Tai, who leads negotiations on digital trade for the U.S., note that in the trade context, domestic regulatory ‘measures that may look like they have a discriminatory effect may or may not be advanced with a discriminatory intent.’ Ambassador Tai correctly observed that the intent behind domestic regulation is critical to determining whether such a policy is in fact discriminatory. The DMA is not discriminatory because it does not target companies, platforms, services, investors or digital products by their national origin. Rather, it establishes a framework for regulating anticompetitive behavior by the largest firms in the digital market,” continued the lawmakers

“Under your leadership, the FTC and DOJ have made significant strides in promoting competition to the benefit of workers, consumers, and small businesses, while resisting pressure from huge multinational corporations and their lobbyists. USTR has ensured that your trade policies support, rather than undermine, your administration’s goals… Your administration must remain steadfast in the face of Big Tech’s misleading trade discrimination claims… to protect the pro-competition priorities that your administration shares with our European allies,” concluded the lawmakers

Senator Warren has led efforts to fight for trade policy that benefits American workers and the economy, not corporate interests:

  • In November 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Schakowsky led 10 lawmakers in a letter to President Biden, commending his administration’s actions countering Big Tech’s influence in trade negotiations, and asking him to replace “digital trade” provisions lobbied for by Big Tech in Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) negotiations with new language to ensure regulatory agencies and Congress are able to counter Big Tech abuses and develop a new model for digital rules in trade agreements that promotes competition and protects workers, consumers, and small businesses. 
  • In August 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Ambassador Tai, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, urging them to rebalance the trade advisory committee system to include the interests of all pertinent stakeholders, including labor, environmental, and other public interests – not just big business.
  • In April 2023, Senator Warren led six of her colleagues in sending a letter to Ambassador Tai and Secretary Raimondo, reiterating concerns about the impact that including skewed digital trade rules in the IPEF will have on the U.S. government’s ability to promote competition, regulate AI, and protect consumer and worker privacy. The lawmakers also urged USTR to prioritize transparency as they continue to negotiate IPEF.
  • In March 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren questioned USTR Tai on the agency’s approach to digital trade policy in enforcement of existing rules and negotiation of the IPEF.
  • In October 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Secretary Raimondo underscoring the dangers of Big Tech’s digital trade agenda.
  • In August 2022, Senator Warren and Representative DeLauro sent a letter to USTR Tai, Secretary Raimondo, Secretary of Blinken, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, requesting that the agencies involved engage in robust consultation with Congress and outside stakeholders on the recently announced IPEF and APEP, and urging them to learn from the failures of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
  • In July 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Jayapal sent a letter to Secretary Raimondo raising questions about the revolving door between the Department of Commerce and Big Tech companies, and its potential impact on global digital trade rules.
  • In April 2022, Senators Warren and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) sent letters to USTR Katherine Tai and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo regarding their plans to negotiate an IPEF and how this new trade deal may impact U.S. workers. 
  • In April 2022, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Warren secured a commitment from USTR Katherine Tai to bring a progressive, worker-centered approach to trade policy in her role as U.S. Trade Representative.