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Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen

Denmark to appoint ‘digital’ ambassador to global US tech companies

Denmark will become the first country in the world to appoint a digital ambassador in recognition of the size and importance tech giants.

Published: March 4, 2017, 6:03 pm

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    Copenhagen, Denmark

    Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said the new ambassadorship comes in response to the importance of global US technology enterprises, like Google, Apple and Microsoft. “These companies have become a type of new nations and we need to confront that,” Samuelsen said.

    Samuelsen revealed the plans in an interview with Politiken newspaper on Friday, adding such companies “affect Denmark just as much as entire countries”. The foreign minister singled out a report in the Financial Times indicating that the market values of Apple and Google are so huge that if the companies were nations they’d narrowly miss out on inclusion in the G20, the world’s 20 largest economies.

    The tech ambassadorship has not yet been filled, but Denmark is aiming to improve relationships with the American tech firms, especially those that have amassed fortunes much larger than some of the countries with which Denmark has traditional diplomatic ties.

    “We are sending a signal that includes the royal crown and our entire diplomacy,” he told Politiken.

    “We will of course maintain our old way of thinking in which we foster our relationships with other countries. But we simply need to have closer ties to some of the companies that affect us,” Samuelsen explained.

    Last week, Facebook announced plans to construct a new data centre in Odense, a result of three years of behind-the-scenes coordinated lobbying efforts by Danish authorities.

    While in 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31 percent of all page views in America, by 2010 the top 10 accounted for 75 percent. Google and Facebook are now the first stops for many Americans seeking news — while Internet traffic to much of the nation’s newspapers, network television and other news gathering agencies has fallen well below 50 percent of all traffic. Meanwhile, Amazon is now the first stop for almost a third of all American consumers seeking to buy anything.

    But critics say US tech giants are already too powerful. If there’s an official digital ambassador, why not have an energy ambassador for the giant oil and gas companies, and a drug ambassador for Big Pharma?

    Recently, the European Commission signalled that it was not happy about aspects of Facebook’s takeover of WhatsApp.

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