Europe's antitrust chief says fences hurt economies, consumers

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[January 27, 2017]  By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Building fences and barriers will hurt economies and drive up prices, Europe's antitrust chief said on Friday, days after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to erect a wall on the southern U.S. border with Mexico.

European Compettition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager gestures during a news conference on Ireland's tax dealings with Apple Inc at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Vidal/File Photo

People who put their faith in fences instead of open markets are going about it the wrong way, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told a conference in Copenhagen.

"Those defenses will not help. They'll only weaken our economies and increase prices for consumers, without giving people any more control over their own lives," she said, without referring to Trump directly.

"But when people have the sense that markets aren't listening to their needs, then we shouldn't be surprised if they start to look for radical alternatives."

Vestager riled the previous U.S. administration when she ordered iPhone maker Apple <AAPL.O> to pay up to 13 billion euros ($13.9 billion) in back taxes to Ireland last year because its tax deal was considered illegal state aid.

She is also investigating other major U.S. companies, such as Internet search giant Google <GOOGL.O> and mobile chipset maker Qualcomm <QCOM.O>, with both companies facing potential sanctions this year for alleged breaches of EU antitrust rules.

U.S. online retailer Amazon <AMZN.O> is also in Vestager's sight over its tax deal with Luxembourg.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by David Evans)

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