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French celebs blast EU-US trade treaty

One hundred of France's leading luminaries have launched a campaign to oppose Europe’s negotiations with the United States that would create a massive free trade zone. The group are worried about a lowering of "social standards", as well as tainted American food products.

French celebs blast EU-US trade treaty
French lumaries have launched a call to end France's involvement in a free trade pact with the US. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

One year into the negotiations to create a free trade zone that would span the Atlantic Ocean and some of France’s leading luminaries are demanding Europe should pull out of the talks now.

The 100 performers, writers, political leaders and thinkers are the first signatories of a petition that argues the negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would create the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA), are being done in secret at the peril of France’s future.

“These opaque negotiations are happening behind our back and the backs of Europeans and North Americans,” the collective wrote. “Under the cover of a hypothetical relaunch of economic growth, these negotiations are likely to lower our social, economic, health, cultural and environmental standards.”

“It’s the reason we are calling on French and European members of parliament to put pressure on EU members and the European Commission to disrupt the negotiations,” the statement read.

Some of the prominent signatories of the call to action sponsored by the collective “Stop TAFTA” include far-left firebrand Jean Luc Mélenchon, actress Marianne Denicourt and comedian Christophe Alevêque.

Despite opposition, Washington and Brussels hope the free trade deal will deliver a major boost to growth and jobs, especially in Europe where the euro debt crisis has left the economy stuck in the doldrums.

France’s moribund economy and record unemployment has stirred up anger and frustration, which voters have expressed in recent “punishment” defeats for the ruling Socialists in local and European elections.

This proposed accord would be the world's largest Free Trade Agreement, with bilateral trade in goods last year worth some €500 billion ($670 billion), services worth another €280 billion and investment flows hitting the trillions.

The EU says it would add some €119 billion annually to the EU economy and €95 billion for the United States.

However, the personalities who have signed the petition are tapping into a growing portion of the country that has grown wary of the agreement and the cost of the growth it claims to offer.

One worry is that the agreement would pave the way for American food products, like hormone-treated beef and genetically modified corn, which is illegal to grow in France, to more easily enter the European market.  There are also concerns that the lowering of trade barriers would permit large multinational corporation to consolidate their control of certain industries.

Comedian Christophe Alevêque, who's also an activist, believes it’s time for people to stand up to big business.

“The problem is that humanity, the environment, culture and social protections are second to the all mighty market,” Alevêque told French daily Le Parisien.

“It’s these same merchants to whom we’ve given the keys to the house. Now we’re adding a few more keys to their ring. We have nothing left. There must be a firewall, a little bit of control, to make sure humans are a bit more at the centre of our concerns.”

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US

Trump orders investigation into France’s planned tax on tech giants

US President Donald Trump has ordered an investigation into France's planned tax on internet services that will hit American tech giants especially hard, officials said Wednesday.

Trump orders investigation into France's planned tax on tech giants
Photo: AFP
The investigation into unfair trade practices could pave the way for Washington to impose punitive tariffs, something Trump has done repeatedly since taking office.
   
“The United States is very concerned that the digital services tax which is expected to pass the French Senate tomorrow unfairly targets American companies,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.
   
The proposed three percent tax on total annual revenues of companies providing services to French consumers only applies to the largest tech companies, “where US firms are global leaders,” the trade representative's office said.
 
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France to introduce tax on big US tech firms in JanuaryPhoto: AFP

The so-called Section 301 investigation is the primary tool the Trump administration has used in the trade war with China to justify tariffs against what the United States says are unfair trade practices.   

USTR will hold hearings to allow for public comment on the issue over several weeks before issuing a final report with a recommendation on what actions to take.
   
Despite the objections to the French tax proposal however, the statement said the United States will continue to work with other advanced economies to address the conundrum of how to tax tech companies.
   
The Group of 20 has tasked the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development with finding a fix in the international tax system that has allowed some internet heavyweights to take advantage of low-tax jurisdictions in places like Ireland and pay next to nothing in other countries where they make huge profits.
   
The Computer & Communications Industry Association on Wednesday applauded the US Trade Representative's move, saying the tax would retroactively require US internet giants operating in France to turn over a percentage of their revenues from the beginning of this year and violates international trade commitments.
   
“This is a critical step toward preventing protectionist taxes on global trade,” CCIA official Matt Schruers said in a statement.
   
“CCIA encourages France to lead the effort toward more ambitious global tax reform, instead of the discriminatory national tax measures that harm global trade.”
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