May 16, 2019 / 11:13 AM / 5 days ago

Macron takes aim at U.S. in push for fairer tech industry

PARIS (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday took a swipe at the freewheeling U.S. business model, saying the private sector had too much influence on U.S. policy and Europe should offer a middle way between China’s state control and U.S. laissez-faire.

Speaking at the opening of a tech summit in Paris, Macron said he favored a toughening of merger and acquisition rules in Europe and that he wanted to make sure European software firms were not taken over by U.S. firms.

The French president, a former investment banker, has come under constant fire from opponents for being too close to big business and pushing through tax reforms that favor the wealthy. On Thursday, less than two weeks out from European elections in which he is under pressure from the far-right, he championed his call for ‘a Europe that protects’ by shielding its companies from being devoured by foreign corporate giants.

“The United States are a formidable continent but they have a model which is completely steered by big private sector players and which is no longer subject to democratic checks and balances,” Macron said at the end of a question and answer session at a tech summit in Paris.

Macron in particular wants Europe to be the global standard bearer for tougher regulation of digital technology, finding a way between what he calls an excessively lax United States and an over-restrictive China.

He is urging tech companies to do more for the “common good” in society, spearheading European efforts to force Google, Amazon, Facebook Inc and Apple Inc (GAFAs) to pay more tax at the source of revenue.

“In Europe we are building a model that is competitive, innovative ... that is democratic and driven by the common good,” Macron said.

Silicon valley investors, however, have warned former investment banker Macron that he risks undoing the work he has done to make France more attractive if he pursues a digital tax too aggressively and there are divisions among EU allies too.

Macron spoke a day after the Trump administration hit Chinese telecoms giant Huawei with severe sanctions on national security grounds, adding another incendiary element to the U.S.-China trade dispute.

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Richard Lough and Gareth Jones, William Maclean

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