Bruno Le Maire's comments addressed an issue which has aroused fierce controversy: the complex tax arrangements of multinational corporations under fire for slashing European tax bills by shifting revenue across borders.
“I have just come back from the G20 meeting in Hamburg and I can tell you that the present age is not one for the weak,” Le Maire told an economic symposium in the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence.
“When you are opposite (Russian President Vladimir) Putin, opposite (US President Donald) Trump or next to (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan, then it is time Europe got a grip and defended its interests, making Google, Amazon and Facebook pay the taxes they owe European taxpayers,” said Le Maire to loud applause.
France had had web search behemoth Google in its sights for years and fiscal authorities last month issued a consultative judgment pending a final ruling later this month that Google should not be let off the hook for a 1.115
billion euro ($1.3 billion) claim.
In May, Google agreed to pay 306 million euros to settle a tax dispute in Italy, where it was under criminal investigation for booking 2009-2013 profits generated in the country in Ireland.
That move echoed a similar settlement with Apple two years ago.
Apart from the tax focus, Brussels last month hit Google with a record 2.4-billion-euro fine for illegally favouring its shopping service in search results, in a fresh assault on US firms that risks the wrath of President Trump.