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Bill Gates. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who’s in D.C. this week to meet with administration officials and members of Congress, told Axios he hopes the U.S.’ souring relationships with Europe and China — sparked by the Trump administration’s tariffs — won’t hurt long-term global health or climate change goals.

Between the lines: Gates always tries to keep his language diplomatic and above the political fights of the day — but he made it clear that trade wars aren’t helpful to his work.

  • "I do hope that U.S.-Europe relations, U.S.-China relations can be put back on a steady basis instead of having to mostly focus on short-term things, you know, relative to tariffs," Gates said.
  • He wants them to get back to focusing on "long-term problems which, in my view, includes these global health things and stopping pandemics" — as well as climate change.

For example, he said, he’d like to partner with China to work on eradicating malaria by 2040. His message to the Trump administration: Don’t make that job harder.

  • "We're going to the Chinese and saying, 'Hey, join in this effort.' And obviously, if U.S.-China relationships are not going well, that means our chance at succeeding in getting China to participate in these global efforts makes it less than we would have otherwise," he said.

The big picture: Gates also pushed back against the growing concerns about the power of the tech giants. He said he doesn’t see "bigness" as a problem — in government, business or tech.

  • "The digital era is reshaping a lot of things and, you know, most of the things are better product at better prices," he said.
  • "You say, are these large companies large because they're providing lower prices and more choice? Right now, in most cases, you'd have to say yes to that," Gates added.
  • It’s true that many large tech companies offer low prices — or even free services, notes Axios managing editor Kim Hart. But on the internet, "free" often means trading your personal data for those services. Determining the value of a consumers’ data is tricky in today’s antitrust framework, which has caused some to call for re-evaluating dominance in terms of data.

Our thought bubble, via Axios’ Ina Fried: It’s not exactly a shock that Gates is defending the idea that a tech company can be big without needing to be split up. That said, Gates could have used it as an opportunity to single out any of Microsoft’s rivals and instead praised the innovation coming from the industry giants.

  • Gates knows from whence he speaks. Microsoft came under significant antitrust fire from both the U.S. and Europe during his tenure.
  • That said, he has also seen a more broad view in his role as a philanthropist seeing how corporate actions affect the most vulnerable.

Gates says his meetings in D.C. are meant to update officials on the foreign aid partnership between the Gates Foundation and the U.S. government.

  • "I suppose in some political environment I'd be asking for huge increases in the foreign aid budget.  But you know, we're not expecting that, so that — you know, there's no big public ask," he added.

Go deeper: Bill Gates’ new crusade: Sounding the climate-change alarm

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
9 mins ago - Podcasts

Net neutrality on the line under Biden

Federal net neutrality rules are back on the table in the Biden administration, after being nixed by Trump, but now might be complicated by the debate over social media companies' behavior.

Axios Re:Cap digs into why net neutrality matters and what comes next with Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of the Decoder podcast.

House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.

Amanda Gorman steals the show on Inauguration Day

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Axios Visuals

Poet Amanda Gorman by far generated the most average interactions on social media on Inauguration Day, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.