France is bristling at a U.S. threat to slap 100% tariffs on French cheeses, Champagne and other products, with the French leader telling President Trump on Tuesday that the move would amount to an attack on all of Europe.
The U.S. Trade Representative proposed the tariffs on $2.4 billion in goods Monday in retaliation for a French tax on global tech giants including Google, Amazon and Facebook.
France’s reaction was swift and robust, with President Emmanuel Macron and his finance minister both warning of a European riposte if the U.S. measure is implemented.
“We’ll see where the discussions lead in the coming weeks, but it will involve a European response,” Macron said in a meeting with Trump on the sidelines of a NATO summit in London. “Because, in effect, it wouldn’t be France that is being sanctioned or attacked but Europe.”
Macron said it’s “not fair” that digital revenues are taxed less than real-life revenues. He said France shouldn’t be singled out for wanting to correct that imbalance with a tax on tech firms.
Trump said the European Union should “shape up, otherwise things are going to get very tough.”
“I’m not in love with those (tech) companies, but they’re our companies,” Trump said ahead of his meeting with Macron.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the U.S. tariff threat is “simply unacceptable. … It’s not the behavior we expect from the United States toward one of its main allies.”
French wine and cheese producers expressed dismay about being caught in the middle of the battle.
An industry association for pungent Roquefort cheese, among the targeted products, said the 100% tariffs could wipe out the U.S. market — 300 tons a year — for the blue-veined cheese.
“We’re lucky to have a product known around the world but the reverse side of that is that every time there’s a trade dispute, Roquefort is systematically targeted,” said Jerome Faramond, the association president.
Le Maire said France talked this week with the European Commission about EU-wide retaliatory measures if Washington follows through with the tariffs next month.
EU Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario said the EU will seek “immediate discussions with the U.S. on how to solve this issue amicably.”