If Emmanuel Macron thought he had averted tariffs on French wine after Melania Trump enjoyed a tasting at the G-7 in Biarritz, he was mistaken.
According to a senior official cited by Bloomberg, the Trump administration is still pursuing a 301 investigation of the French digital tax which infuriated the US president earlier this summer, prompting a ridiculous tweet extolling the virtues of American grapes.
“France just put a digital tax on our great American technology companies”, Trump sighed, on July 26. “If anybody taxes them, it should be their home Country”, he went on to say, echoing sentiments expressed during an interview with Maria Bartiromo and adding that he intended to “announce a substantial reciprocal action on Macron’s foolishness shortly”. He then teased part of that “reciprocal action” by shrieking about American wine being “better than French wine!” (Never mind that Trump doesn’t drink and thus doesn’t have a claim on an opinion.)
At the post-G-7 press conference late last month, Macron suggested the dispute had been at least temporarily resolved. “We have reached a very good agreement”, he said.
Specifically, Macron’s government offered to pay back the balance in the event a comprehensive, global accord struck via the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ends up producing a tax that’s less than the 3% Paris currently charges on French-based revenue of digital companies.
As Bloomberg goes on to detail in the linked post above, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire likely thought the goodwill gesture would be enough to ensure that France dodged a Section 301 investigation from the Trump administration. But alas, that is not the case. The probe is ongoing.
And that’s not all.
Apparently, Le Maire’s trip to Washington earlier this month didn’t go swimmingly, or if that’s too strong, suffice to say talks between the French and Trump’s surrogates left Macron’s delegation “confused” about what comes next in terms of avoiding potential levies.
That’s not terribly surprising considering the discussions involved Bob Lighthizer and Larry Kudlow, who are often just as bewildered about Trump’s thought process as everyone else.
All of this with the Airbus subsidy dispute still up in the air (get it?) and the threat of auto tariffs still casting a pall over the outlook for the European economy.