At the beginning of this week, French and Swedish Internet executives met to focus on cooperation between the two countries’ technology firms and ended up launching a full-board complaint session about the U.S. domination of e-commerce.
The meeting in Paris was indicative of the outrage that some European powers feel toward U.S. success in leveraging the Internet.
According to published reports, Jonas Birgersson, the CEO of a Swedish consulting firm, urged his compatriots to “kick ass on the Internet and challenge Americans.” He added that, “If they win, it won’t be a question of free trade. It will be a question of slavery.”
Many at the conference even went so far as to lament that just as Europeans once conquered the Western hemisphere with force, the Americans are now doing the same thing via the Internet.
While much of this anger can be attributed to genuine concern about being invaded by giant American e-tailers like Amazon.com and Yahoo!, much of the rage is really misplaced anger at itself.
After all, the staid European telecommunications companies are not being forced by American interests to make prime time Internet surfing cost-prohibitive for the average European by continuing to charge high phone tariffs.
Similarly, the excessive caution of some European bankers and venture capitalists — as well as a lack of imagination — has made it possible for innovative e-tailers to get a foothold on the continent in the first place.
How many of Europe’s top engineers and entrepreneurs have been forced to come to the United States because their ideas were scoffed at by financial leaders in their respective countries?
Still, even with all the bellyaching, Europe’s Internet market has expanded greatly this year. The number of European Internet users has soared as much as 29 percent, and Europe has led the U.S. in wireless phones as a platform for utilizing the Web.
Don’t Blame U.S.
If the leaders who attended this conference are truly serious about winning on the e-commerce battlefield, they must first abide by two American rules that are essential to becoming competitive in the New Economy.
First, they must stop being dishonest with themselves and admit that it is by their own doing that U.S. e-tailers are taking business from under their noses.
Second, it is time to stop complaining and get to work.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.