Trump Administration Proposes Tariffs Against $2.4 Billion of French Goods
By Josh Zumbrun in Washington and Noemie Bisserbe in Paris
The Trump administration proposed tariffs of up to 100% against
$2.4 billion of French imports, saying the tariffs are justified
because of a new digital-services tax imposed by France that weighs
heavily on U.S. technology companies.
The Office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has
been working on the report for months and the action is designed to
pressure France to reach a new agreement on taxing digital services
that doesn't disadvantage American companies. Under the process
outlined by the USTR, the tariffs wouldn't take effect until
January at the earliest, giving the two sides a window to continue
The USTR also threatened that such tariffs could be enacted in
the future against Austria, Italy and Turkey, all of which also
have digital-services taxes.
"USTR's decision today sends a clear signal that the United
States will take action against digital tax regimes that
discriminate or otherwise impose undue burdens on U.S. companies,"
Mr. Lighthizer said in a statement. "The USTR is focused on
countering the growing protectionism of EU member states, which
unfairly targets U.S. companies, whether through digital services
taxes or other efforts that target leading U.S. digital services
The tariff action against France uses the same broad law that
the U.S. has used to impose tariffs against China.
A spokeswoman for the French Finance Minister declined to
France's digital-tax measure is the first in a series of
proposed national taxes on digital services being debated across
Europe. French lawmakers approved the new tax in July, just hours
after Mr. Lighthizer said his office would investigate the tax.
The French tax, which is retroactive to the beginning of 2019,
applies a 3% tax on revenue that companies reap in France from such
activities as undertaking targeted advertising or running a digital
In August, President Emmanuel Macron said U.S. and French
officials had agreed on a proposal stipulating that France will
reimburse U.S. tech companies if they end up paying more taxes
under the French tax than they would under taxation rules the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is currently
France pledged to repeal its new tax once an agreement is
reached at the OECD. But progress has been slow.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday that after
asking for an international solution at the OECD level, the U.S.
was backtracking. "They are now telling us that they don't want
this solution and are simply going to impose new sanctions on
France," Mr. Le Maire said, speaking on the radio. "My message is
clear: We will never, never, never abandon our will to tax fairly
tech giants," he added.
The USTR said Monday that the French tax "discriminates against
U.S. digital companies, such as Google, Apple, Facebook and
The USTR said it would hold public hearings on January 7 of next
year and wait to receive public comments through at least January
14, giving France and the other members of the OECD more time to
Write to Josh Zumbrun at Josh.Zumbrun@wsj.com and Noemie
Bisserbe at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 02, 2019 18:32 ET (23:32 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.