Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said last week that the European Commission’s antitrust ruling against Microsoft Corp. may be the first shot in a trade war.

“For some time now, the United States Congress has expressed its frustration over the European Union’s intransigence on international trade issues that are vitally important to the US economy,” Frist said in a statement. “From over-reaching attempts to regulate e-commerce, to trade barriers against American beef and other agricultural products, the EU has relentlessly pursued protectionist policies that disproportionately harm American businesses and workers.”

“I now fear,” he said, “that the US and the EU are heading toward a new trade war - and the Commission’s ruling against Microsoft is the first shot.”

Europe’s antitrust authority fined Microsoft a record $613 million and ordered it to unbundle media players from some versions of Windows as punishment for abusing its market power. The Commission said its decision “is fully consistent” with international obligations.

A spokesman could not be reached for immediate comment.

In a broadside at the European Union, Frist said economic growth in the continent has been meager “because European economies are buried by public sector debt.” They are drained by “excessive regulation” and “strangled by excessive regulation from bureaucrats sitting in Brussels.”

“Now as if destroying Europe’s economy were not enough, the European Commission has taken aim at Microsoft, a company whose products and technology have been engines of global economic growth.”

He called for the US government to “make a clear and strong statement objecting to the EU actions.” (Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)