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TRUMP

French construction giant Vinci says ‘non’ to helping build Trump’s wall

The CEO of the French construction group Vinci said Tuesday that he would not participate in the building of any wall on the US border with Mexico, called for by President Donald Trump.

French construction giant Vinci says 'non' to helping build Trump's wall
Photo: AFP

“I have to take into account the reality of my company, our culture, our way of doing things and our sensitivities, not only those of my American colleagues, but around the world,” Xavier Huillard told BFM Business television.

“For these reasons, and this is not at all a value judgment on the United States, we prefer not to touch this wall.”

The barrier that Trump has promised to erect along the US-Mexico border, a project valued at tens of billions of dollars, is at the centre of a diplomatic crisis between Mexico City and Washington and is provoking criticism around the world.

“If we decide to do something that's likely to offend a majority of our employees, I think it's wiser to avoid it,” Huillard said.

Vinci is the latest company to stake its ground on what would be an enormous project potentially worth billions of dollars for suppliers and builders.

The CEO of Vinci's French rival Bouygues said last month that he was not interested in the project, saying it would be “a metal structure” in which his company did not have any particular expertise.

But the French-Swiss group LafargeHolcim is ready to sell its cement to build the controversial border wall, the company's chief said in an interview this month.

“We are here to supply our customers' needs,” Eric Olsen told AFP. “We don't have a political view on things.”

TAX

France aims for US digital tax deal by late August, despite Trump opposition

France wants to reach a deal with the US on taxing tech giants by a G7 meeting in late August, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Saturday.

France aims for US digital tax deal by late August, despite Trump opposition
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire. Photo: AFP

He was responding to US President Donald Trump, who on Friday vowed “substantial” retaliation against France for a law passed this month on taxing digital companies even if their headquarters are elsewhere.

The law would affect US-based global giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, among others.

Trump denounced French President Emmanuel Macron's “foolishness”, though they discussed the issue by phone on Friday, according to the White House.

Macron confirmed that he had a “long” conversation with Trump, stressing the pair would “continue to work together in view of the G7”.

“We will discuss international taxation, trade and collective security”, he said Saturday.

His office earlier said Macron had told Trump that the tax on the tech giants was not just in France's interest but was something they both had a stake in.

Neither side revealed if they had also discussed Trump's threat to tax French wines in retaliation.

Le Maire took the same line at a news conference Saturday: “We wish to work closely with our American friends on a universal tax on digital activities.

“We hope between now and the end of August — the G7 heads of state meeting in Biarritz — to reach an agreement.”

Leaders of the Group of Seven highly industrialised countries are to meet in the southwestern French city on August 24-26.

Le Maire emphasised that “there is no desire to specifically target American companies,” since the three-percent tax would be levied on revenues generated from services to French consumers by all of the world's largest tech firms, including Chinese and European ones. 

But Deputy White House spokesman Judd Deere noted earlier that France's digital services tax was already the subject of an investigation at the US Trade Representative's office, potentially opening the door to economic sanctions.

“The Trump administration has consistently stated that it will not sit idly by and tolerate discrimination against US-based firms,” Deere said in a statement. 

The French law aims to plug a taxation gap that has seen some internet heavyweights paying next to nothing in European countries where they make huge profits, because their legal base is in smaller EU states.

France has said it would withdraw the tax if an international agreement was reached, and Paris hopes to include all OECD countries by the end of 2020.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is a Paris-based forum that advises the world's advanced economies.

READ ALSO: 'I like the way they look': Teetotaler Trump prefers US wine to French

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