French president Macron takes aim at US in push for fairer tech industry

President Emmanuel Macron took a swipe at what he perceives as a freewheeling US business model, saying the private sector had too much influence on US policy and Europe should offer a middle way between China’s state control and US laissez-faire.

(REUTERS) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday (May 16) took a swipe at the freewheeling United States business model, saying the private sector had too much influence on US policy and that Europe should offer a middle way between China's state control and US' laissez-faire approach.

Speaking at the opening of a tech summit in Paris, Mr Macron said he favoured a toughening of merger and acquisition rules in Europe and that he wanted to make sure European software firms were not taken over by US firms.

The French President, a former investment banker, has come under constant fire from opponents for being too close to big business and pushing through tax reforms that favour the wealthy. On Thursday, less than two weeks out from European elections in which he is under pressure from the far-right, he championed his call for "a Europe that protects" by shielding its companies from being devoured by foreign corporate giants.

"The United States is a formidable continent but they have a model which is completely steered by big private sector players and which is no longer subject to democratic checks and balances," Mr Macron said at the end of a question and answer session at a tech summit in Paris.

Mr Macron, in particular, wants Europe to be the global standard bearer for tougher regulation of digital technology, finding a way between what he calls an excessively lax US and an over-restrictive China.

He is urging tech companies to do more for the "common good" in society, spearheading European efforts to force Google, Amazon, Facebook Inc and Apple Inc (GAFAs) to pay more tax at the source of revenue.

"In Europe, we are building a model that is competitive, innovative... that is democratic and driven by the common good," Mr Macron said.

Silicon Valley investors, however, have warned Mr Macron that he risks undoing the work he has done to make France more attractive if he pursues a digital tax too aggressively and there are divisions among EU allies too.

 

Mr Macron spoke a day after the Trump administration hit Chinese telecoms giant Huawei with severe sanctions on national security grounds, adding another incendiary element to the US-China trade dispute.