President Trump is defending Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and other tech companies in the face of France’s push for a digital tax that mostly targets U.S. companies.
Silicon Valley has applauded the Trump administration for condemning Europe’s efforts to tax the U.S. tech giants, but the situation has made for strange bedfellows as the president continues to galvanize his base by claiming companies like Facebook and Twitter are out to get him.
Some tech industry sources say it’s part of a long-standing dynamic: Trump lambasts the companies in public but his “America first” administration often defends them as valuable U.S. businesses. “There’s sometimes a delta between the rhetoric and the policy actions,” a tech industry source told The Hill. “But I’d say that’s probably true beyond just the tech industry. The relationship is probably better than people suspect.”
On Monday, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) proposed billions of dollars in tariffs to retaliate against France’s digital services tax, finding that it unfairly discriminates against U.S. tech companies like Amazon and Google. The French digital services tax will hit about 30 companies, most of which are based in the U.S. Trump then raised the issue directly with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has vowed to push ahead with the tax despite the threat of tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion of French products, including French wines and cheeses.
Trump acknowledged the tension around his decision to defend the companies on Tuesday. “The tech companies you’re talking about, they’re not my favorite people because they aren’t exactly for me, but that’s okay,” Trump told Macron. “I don’t care… They’re American companies,” he continued. “And we want to tax American companies… That’s important. We want to tax them. That’s not for somebody else to tax.”
It’s not the first or last time the Trump administration has stood behind Big Tech. For months, the White House has hammered China for stealing the U.S. tech industry’s intellectual property, demanding significant changes to Beijing’s IP practices before any trade deal. Several provisions in Trump’s landmark 2017 tax law were a boon to tech firms like Apple, Microsoft and Google. And his daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, received an award and glowing accolades this year from Silicon Valley’s top trade group, the Internet Association, for her work expanding coding education in schools across the country, a top policy issue for companies like Facebook and Google.
MacDailyNews Take: On the subject of France’s digital tax, as we wrote back in April:
As per the EU itself, the smart approach for Apple et al. is to lobby for harmonized EU taxation over a state-by-state patchwork of taxes, as that will at least offer simplicity, stability, and predictability.
In her article, Birnbaum writes, “Trump… spread conspiracy theories implying that Google is left-leaning.” As per “conspiracy theories,” perhaps, somehow, Birnbaum has never seen this widely-seen video: