In response to GAFA taxation, "Trump's attack is below the belt"


Will get along, will not get along? The tension mounted a notch between Paris and Washington a few hours before the opening of the NATO summit in London on December 3. The day before, the Trump administration, through its trade representative, said that nearly $ 2.4 billion of imports of French products could be surcharged up to 100% in retaliation for the famous "GAFA tax"(Acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) instituted in July by Paris. A 3% tax that applies to digital companies with a turnover of 750 million euros worldwide and 25 million in France.
Believing that this onewas an abnormal burden for affected US companies"In violation of"principles of fiscal policyThe United States Trade Representative's Office (USTR) has drawn up a list of French products that will be targeted by 14 January at the latest. New, if the spirits were so far spared by other surcharges (25%) imposed by the US authorities against the backdrop of the European public aid case to Airbus, champagne, cheeses, just like luxury goods and beauty groups LMVH and L'Oreal are this time targeted. The groups concerned, Tuesday, accused the coup on the stock market.
Faced with American threats that he considers "unacceptableBruno Le Maire told our colleagues Classical Radio hope for a European response "strong". In the process, Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario said that "as in all other trade-related issues, the EU will act and react as one and remain unitedSaying, working "in close coordination with the French authorities on the next stepss. "

Olivier Piton, lawyer in France and the United States, founder and former director of the influence strategy cell of the Embassy of France in Washington DC, author of The new American revolution (Plon Publishing, 2016) and Transgressors in power (Plon Ed, 2017) answers our questions.

Sputnik: Washington has threatened to tax up to 100% for nearly 2.4 billion euros of French products if Paris did not return on its famous tax "Gafa". In your opinion, will this difference between France and the United States on the taxation of digital giants be settled before January 14, when this second string of US sanctions against imports of French products could to be put in place, or is it just another "facade gesturingAs you described Donald Trump's threats in a previous interview?

Olivier Piton: "It has been seen in the context of the trade war between the United States and China, we are always on long time. We are at the beginning of negotiations. It seems that indeed, Donald Trump wants to bend France and Emmanuel Macron on the problem of taxation of GAFA. So, in my opinion, it would be very exaggerated to be able to know what the final decision will be, whether there will be agreement or not.

One thing is certain, Donald Trump is defending the interests of the GAFA, although the GAFA are not necessarily grateful to him for the campaign, but that's another problem. Second, Emmanuel Macron defends the interests of France and secondarily the interests of Europe.

So we are on positions that are apparently antithetical, but I remind you that the GAFA should be punished simply because they do not pay enough taxes in Europe as they should. This is absolutely not the case for French wines, which are subject to a taxation they respect in the United States, so we are not at all in the same situation and Trump's attack is an attack that I would call, practically, from below the belt. We are in our right, but GAFAs are not! "

Sputnik: Right level, from the point of view of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), it is estimated that the French tax is "not in accordance with the principles of international tax policy."

Olivier Piton: "It's as if a wealthy person complained about not being able to do tax optimization, it's exactly the same problem. Legally the GAFA are completely in their right, but on the ethical principle, when one pays 15 to 20% of taxes to the maximum because one created a subsidiary attached to a subsidiary which is in one of the countries of the European Union – not to quote them – who practices fiscal dumping … Yes, legally we respect the rules, ethically it is far from the case. "

Sputnik: Why tax these products? We understand that this could be explained by the fact that they are not already affected by other US sanctions. We also imagine that it is because they are enoughemblematicIs there not also the fact that Emmanuel Macron is considered to be close to certain actors in the luxury of tricolor?

Olivier Piton: "You are right to emphasize all this. The first point is that France is indeed the leading country in the field of luxury and incidentally wines, at least in the United States. Secondly, Donald Trump wants to hit the symbolic. When he wanted to attack Germany, he attacked cars, when he attacks France he attacks luxury and wines and spirits. So there is a part of symbol, it is also quite interesting, because the United States today believes that in a certain way, the GAFA are the symbol of the new American economy, on which they are not completely wrong. (…), But I would like to remind you that there is an inequality of fact, if not by right it is ethical (…) the GAFA do not pay what they should pay, French winemakers pay what they have to pay, that's the difference! We are not in the same situation! "
Sputnik: Donald Trump bangs his fist on the table against the French to defend the GAFA even though he does not wear them in his heart. Can we not at least recognize the American President to defend the interests of his country?

Olivier Piton: "Absolutely, I never condemned a head of state when he defended the interests of his country, he is elected for that! So I have no problem with Donald Trump defending the GAFA. I just note two points.

The first is that the GAFA are not necessarily grateful to him for this tax defense, because we know the complicated relationship – especially with Facebook and Twitter – and secondly, once again, Emmanuel Macron defends French interests . It suits me all the better as French, I find it quite normal.

But I repeat, French products pay their fair share in the United States when their products are exported to the United States, this is not the case of GAFA. So we have an inequality of tax treatment that is underlined. That each defends the interests of his country, nothing more normal, only in the case of the French products, one is in a normal case and one is in a biased frame – for fiscal insufficiency – under the GAFA. It must be remembered systematically! And I doubt that this is what Emmanuel Macron had to say to Donald Trump when they saw each other on Tuesday in London. "

Sputnik: Paris has raised the threat of a "strong European response". Can we really hope for a European response, when we see that we have not even managed to agree on GAFA taxation?

Olivier Piton: "Emmanuel Macron tries, in any case it is all his merit, to try to unite the Europeans currently on a number of topics with unfortunately for him and then for us results that are not up to par, especially on NATO. He is right to try to unify the European position on the problem of GAFA taxation. Will he get there? It is very complicated, because unfortunately in terms of diplomacy and in particular tax diplomacy – to speak simply – there are diverging interests in Europe. So, wait to see, but it will be difficult. "

Sputnik: It is difficult to see Luxembourg and Ireland going against the United States on such a dossier, the same with regard to Germany, which has been spurned on the Nord Stream 2 dossier. File on which the Germans risk seeing their companies soon sanctioned by Washington.

Olivier Piton: "The real issue is Germany. And Germany, for the moment, is an absolutely incredible resistance to all French initiatives, whatever they are in the international field. That is to say, we have today, it must be said, a real opposition between France and Germany, as we have rarely seen in the past.

Germany is systematically blocking all French initiatives and as long as Germany blocks, we have no chance of being able to agree on a European level. If Germany accepts a number of French initiatives – and that goes in all areas, including the Defense – at that time, we will move forward. For the moment we are facing a cold economic-diplomatic war with the Germans. "

Sputnik: Sanctions on French products, sanctions against German companies, it is often criticized Russia to treat individually the European Member States, to play the division. In any case, we can see that the Americans are clearly doing this with regard to their European allies …

Olivier Piton: "You know, I never got the impression that third states were doing otherwise. China, Russia – at the time the Soviet Union -, the United States … remember the phrase of the time "Europe, which phone number?", This is not new!

We live in a pretense which is a unity of European facade which on not too polemical subjects is real, but as soon as we enter the hard, on concrete subjects, it is the national logic which takes again its rights. We are not the worst students at this level, the Germans are infinitely more nationalistic than we are. The proof is that if you look at all the subjects that are currently controversial between the French and the Germans, our positions are radically opposed, systematically. "

Sputnik: Shortly after these American threats, Bruno Le Maire assured the microphone of France Inter than "never»France would waive the tax on GAFA. Can France afford to stay the course? What are his levers?

Olivier Piton: "I'm still very skeptical about the martial, hard-line positions of the genre"never","me alive", Etc. Always be careful. Now, we must recognize Bruno Le Maire to place the balance of power with the Americans at a high level from the start. It's undeniable, it's better to start by saying "we will not get along!"Rather than"at what price do you want to negotiate?"So Bruno Le Mayor is right.

Now, what are the possibilities? There is an attempt at understanding at the European level, it will be complicated, but if we are united, we will have many more action rushes vis-a-vis the Americans. Second framework, the WTO and third framework, NATO is an agora where, we see, Emmanuel Macron took the opportunity to discuss the subject in London with Donald Trump.

There are two things that France and Europe should do. First, indeed, not to give in on the tax optimization that GAFAs are doing in Europe, it's an ethical problem and secondly, when is a European GAFA? I heard Cedric O (Secretary of State for Digital, ed.) Not so long ago, also advocate for the creation of a European champion, when will we do it? "

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