July 24, 2019 / 9:39 PM / 5 months ago

Treasury's Mnuchin says Amazon 'destroyed' U.S. retail sector

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attends a working session during the G7 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Chantilly, near Paris, France, July 17, 2019. Ian Langsdon/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that online giant Amazon.com Inc “destroyed the retail industry across the United States.”

Mnuchin said he looked forward to hearing the results of a Justice Department probe, announced on Tuesday, into whether big U.S. technology firms engage in anticompetitive practices, the strongest sign yet that the Trump administration is stepping up its scrutiny of Big Tech.

“If you look at Amazon, although they’re certain benefits to it, they’ve destroyed the retail industry across the United States,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “I don’t have an opinion other than I think it’s absolutely right the attorney general is looking into these issues and I look forward to listening to his recommendations to the president.”

Amazon defended itself, saying that 90% of all sales occur in brick-and-mortar stores.

“Today, independent sellers make up more than 58% of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon, and their sales have grown twice as fast as our own, totalling $160 billion in 2018,” a spokesman for Amazon said.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to say on Tuesday which companies it would scrutinize under the antitrust probe, but said the review would consider concerns raised about “search, social media, and some retail services online” - an apparent reference to Google, Amazon, Facebook Inc, and potentially Apple Inc.

Mnuchin also said the small amount of work that Google does with the Chinese government did not raise any concerns, despite President Donald Trump’s calls last week for his administration to investigate the issue.

“The president did look into that as well as I,” Mnuchin said. “Google is an American company who wants to help the U.S.”

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Leslie Adler

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