Le Maire Claims U.S. Allies in French Face-Off on Digital Tax

(Bloomberg) --

As France and U.S. face off over digital tax, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire says he has allies in Donald Trump’s administration.

“We think there are better ways to defend our common interest” than “to use sanctions and tariffs and run the risk of a trade war that is the biggest threat to global growth,” Le Maire told a Bank of France conference on Tuesday, speaking on the eve of a gathering of Group of Seven finance chiefs near Paris. “I know that many of my American partners share this conviction.”

Le Maire emphasized his relationships with David Malpass, the World Bank President and a former Trump official at the U.S. Treasury, and Steven Mnuchin, the current Treasury Secretary, at a time of heightened tension. The U.S. last week threatened France over its plans to tax the revenue, rather than the profit, of companies such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google that make their sales primarily in cyberspace.

“I know I can rely on David Malpass and on Steven Mnuchin, who have always shown a willingness to find shared solutions,” he said. “We have been working very well together. I am sure we will continue to do so. I want to thank Steven for his commitment and his ability to work towards compromises.”

Le Maire lamented that the U.S., one of France’s closest allies, “would rather use punitive tariffs than sort an issue out via discussion and cooperation.”

The Frenchman also called for greater dialog on the Trump administration’s wider challenge to the international economic order, which includes the cooperative setup established at the Bretton Woods conference 75 years ago.

“We think it is wiser to reinvent the Bretton Woods order rather than weaken it,” Le Maire said. “I know that many of my American partners share this conviction.”

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