Readers both within and outside Europe will know that the continent is enduring what Charles Dickens called hard times. European institutions and governments are seeking to impose austerity measures on a public that is increasingly left-leaning and hostile to such measures.
It seems that that investigation has run its course and European
Commission spokespeople have been saying action is imminent. The result
could be a fine of up to 10 percent of the company's annual sales, which
are running at about $70 billion.
Since 2004 Microsoft has
displayed a pattern of dragging its heels over European Commission
rulings and then paying hefty fines. Since 2004 it has been fined more
than 1.6 billion euros (more than $2 billion) mainly for non-compliance
Meanwhile the European Union has asked the World
Trade Organization to allow the imposition of countermeasures against
the United States over aircraft manufacturer Boeing. EU is looking for
$12 billion per year because the U.S. has not met its obligation to
remove subsidies in the aircraft sector.
The European Union
states that the WTO has clearly ruled that U.S. federal and state
governments have been providing subsidies that are incompatible with the
U.S. commitment to WTO trade agreements and has rejected a U.S. appeal.
it is not clear that the European Union can do very much in the case of
Boeing as it is hedged around with its own commitments to WTO
procedures. The EU has said it won't apply sanctions without prior
approval from the WTO and the process to obtaining that approval is
likely to take up to two years.
But what this does illustrate is
that when the going gets tough the tough thinking turn to fines, tariffs
and the protection of regional interests.
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