President Barack Obama just called out the European Union for data protectionism.

In an interview with re/code, the President discussed a wide range of topics. He admits that “folks are quite keen on talking about government intrusion” into their privacy, then laments that some commercial data collection efforts are also “fairly invasive.” The interviewer points out that “Europe is very strong” on privacy protection and is very busy investigating companies like “Facebook and Google.”

That’s when the President takes umbrage with European high-mindedness on privacy issues:

"Sometimes the European response here is more commercially driven than anything else. …sometimes their vendors — their service providers who, you know, can’t compete with ours — are essentially trying to set up some roadblocks for our companies to operate effectively there.”

That is exactly the argument MRA has been making about efforts to undermine or abrogate the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor for data transfer, and the push to harmonize data privacy rules across the Atlantic.

Of course, an academic quickly suggested that this was just a feint, an attempt to “change the topic of conversation” away from the National Security Agency (NSA) and government surveillance. It would not be at all surprising, since the Administration appeared to do the exact same thing a year ago when launching their Big Data and privacy investigation: responding to a hullabaloo about federal government surveillance of citizens by targeting attention at private sector data practices.

President Obama continued with a defense of American innovation:

“We have owned the Internet. Our companies have created it, expanded it, perfected it in ways that they can’t compete. And oftentimes what is portrayed as high-minded positions on issues sometimes is just designed to carve out some of their commercial interests.”

Even if it is little more than a feint, MRA appreciates the top U.S. government representative calling out the European Union and making a case for U.S. digital interests. It would be great if we get some follow-up, too.

Read and watch the full interview at re/code.