France says Trump’s wavering is forcing Europe to deepen defence ties

Uncertainty over US President Donald Trump's commitment to the NATO alliance requires European nations to bolster efforts to forge a common defence policy, France's defence minister said Thursday.

France says Trump's wavering is forcing Europe to deepen defence ties

“At the NATO summit a year ago, he did not explicitly support the idea in place since the North Atlantic Treaty that when one country of the alliance is attacked, the others will come to their aid,” Florence Parly said on France 2 television.

“That casts a certain doubt” over the alliance formed by the treaty in 1949, she said.

Trump, who once derided the alliance as “obsolete”, says the US shoulders too much of NATO's costs and has insisted that European members must increase their spending.

At the coming NATO summit in Brussels on July 11 and 12, “I think the US president will insist very strongly that its allies, in particular in Europe, 
pay the burden which the US says it is bearing,” Parly said.

“That's why building a common European defence is necessary, in this situation where we don't really know if the assumptions we've lived with for 
the past 70 years are still valid,” she said.

France and Germany have already taken a “historic” step by agreeing to jointly build the next generation of fighter jet and tank for their forces, 
and to form an integrated rapid response force, she said.

“Many European countries still buy their military equipment mainly from non-European countries — I don't need to cite the United States — and that is also something we need to change,” she added.

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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.

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