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French and US governments aim to end digital tax dispute in coming days

By HAN BAOYI in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-01-09 09:31

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire speaks during his New Year address to France's economic actors and the press at the Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris, France, Jan 7, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

France and the United States will redouble their efforts to find a compromise in the coming days in their dispute over a new French tax on technology companies' services, the European country's finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said on Tuesday.

And he emphasized that the issue is not merely between the two nations but between Washington and the whole of Europe.

"I had a long talk with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin," Reuters reported Le Maire as saying. "We have decided to step up efforts to try and find a compromise, within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, on digital tax."

The French government decided in July to introduce the new tax, which will see US technology giants, including Google, Facebook, and Amazon, pay more tax in France.

Washington has threatened to retaliate with additional tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion of French products, including champagne and luxury handbags.

"We gave each other precisely 15 days, until our next meeting, which is planned on the sidelines of Davos at the end of January," he said, referring to the World Economic Forum later this month.

During the 15-day period, France should not be subject to tariff s, Le Maire said, adding that any decision by Washington to levy such taxes would, in effect, bring an end to discussions.

"This is a more general issue between the United States and Europe," Le Maire added, after having met European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan in Paris.

Hogan said: "We will look at all possibilities if any tariff s or measures are imposed by the United States. The European Commission will stand together with France and all other member states who wish to have the sovereign right to impose digital taxation on companies in a fair way."

The Financial Times said other European nations, including the United Kingdom, believe the technology giants have not been paying fair amounts of tax on profits generated online within their jurisdictions.

The OECD is attempting to draw up an international framework on digital taxation and Le Maire said France will abide by those rules once they are adopted.

The European Union is also understood to be developing similar rules that will be used regionally if the OECD framework fails to materialize.

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