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‘Very difficult’ talks with US on tech tax — France

Meeting on the topic to be held in Davos this week

By AFP - Jan 20,2020 - Last updated at Jan 20,2020

A Google logo is seen on the brand's stand ahead of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Monday (AFP photo)

PARIS — France's finance minister said on Monday that "very difficult" negotiations with Washington to settle a dispute over a tax on multinational tech giants were "far from being a done deal" as a self-imposed deadline loomed.

"We are willing to take steps towards the United States — we have proposed a few," Bruno Le Maire told the LCI broadcaster.

While he was still hopeful of a deal by Wednesday, the minister said: "I do not hide the fact that it is very difficult, it is one of the most difficult negotiations that I have conducted, it is far from being a done deal."

On January 7, Paris and Washington set a two-week deadline to end a row over a French tax on giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon that was met with a US threat of sky-high retaliatory duties on $2.4 billion of French products from wines cheese to leather handbags.

The negotiating deadline coincided with a scheduled meeting on the topic at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos from Tuesday to Friday this week.

The US sanctions "would be a terrible blow for French viticulture", said Le Maire, adding he had spent most of the weekend in negotiations and was due to meet US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin again on Monday evening.

The minister said France would "certainly not" give in to pressure to reduce to "nearly nothing" the 3 per cent tax France imposed on multinational tech giants' turnover from January 1 last year, pending the adoption of an international tax regime under the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

"What I am trying to make our American friends understand is that the fight is not between France and the United States or between Europe and the United States, the fight is to put in place a fair tax on digital activities," insisted Le Maire.

After blocking the tech tax talks at the OECD for several years, Washington relaunched them last year only to make proposals in December which France rejected before going ahead with its tax.

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