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US President Donald Trump has ordered an investigation into French plans to tax tech firms hundreds of millions of dollars.
Trump is worried that France’s digital services tax, which would place a 3% levy on the French revenues of firms like Amazon, unfairly targets US companies.
The US could retaliate against the tax, potentially sparking a new trade war with France. The French finance minister said differences should be resolved “through means other than threats.”
Trump’s move marks something of a change in tone for the president, who has spent weeks attacking America’s biggest tech firms.
US President Donald Trump has ordered an investigation into French plans to slam big tech companies, like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook, with giant new taxes.
The probe, known as a Section 301 investigation, was announced on Wednesday night by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. It could culminate in retaliatory tariffs, potentially opening up a new trade war.
Watch: US to probe France’s plan to tax tech giants (CNBC)
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France’s digital services tax, which was approved by the French senate on Thursday, would require tech firms with revenues of more than $845 million to pay a 3% tax on their French sales.
This could raise about €500 million, or $563 million, for the French public purse every year, which French Finance Minister Bruno le Maire has said would amount to “justice.” © AP
Taxing revenue is meant to counter the complex arrangements most US tech firms have in place to avoid paying high taxes on their profits.
Lighthizer’s office said it has reason to believe that France is “unfairly targeting the tax” on US companies. As a result, Trump has called for the investigation.
“The United States is very concerned that the digital services tax which is expected to pass the French Senate tomorrow unfairly targets American companies,” said Lighthizer.
“The president has directed that we investigate the effects of this legislation and determine whether it is discriminatory or unreasonable and burdens or restricts United States commerce.”
The US has the authority to “respond to a foreign country’s unfair trade practices” under the trade act, Lighthizer’s office said, suggesting it could decide to hit back at the French tax.
Related: Winners and losers from Trump’s trade war with China (Reuters)
Action against Europe would not be unprecedented for the US president, who imposed a 25% tariff on European steel and 10% on aluminum imports in May last year. Trump is already fighting trade wars with China and India.
“Trump preps for a trade war with France,” was the conclusion of New York Times economic policy reporter Alan Rappeport.
Le Maire said Thursday that threats for the US are not the answer. “I profoundly believe that between allies we can and should resolve our differences through means other than threats,” he said, per Reuters.
Related: Donald Trump – life in pictures (Photos)
Here’s a look at the journey of Donald Trump, from being a real-estate mogul to becoming the 45th President of the U.S.
Born on June 14, 1946, in New York City, New York, U.S., to real estate developer Frederick Trump and Mary McLeod, Trump graduated in 1968 from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania with a a degree in economics. He was eligible for the draft lottery during the Vietnam War, but a combination of student and medical deferments disqualified him from service.
Early in his career, Trump invested $70,000 in a Broadway comedy – “Paris Is Out” – which remains his only producer credit for theatricals to date; the play was a flop. The next year, he began his real estate career – he joined his father’s company, Elizabeth Trump & Son.
By 1971, he’d moved to Manhattan and was handling some of the largest and most profitable building projects in the city. He was given full control of the company later that year.
The future U.S. president spent the ‘70s networking and making connections with some of New York’s most influential people. Focused on maximizing profits, he involved himself in large-scale building projects in Manhattan and, by 1980, opened the Grand Hyatt Hotel next to the Grand Central Station. He also secured the Fifth Avenue site that would go on to house Trump Tower.
In 1977, Trump married Ivana Zelníčková, a New York-based fashion model. Born on Feb. 20, 1949, Zelníčková was briefly considered for Czechoslovakia’s skiing team at the 1972 Winter Olympics. The couple had two sons – Donald Jr. and Eric, as well as a daughter, Ivanka.
Trump Tower – a $200 million apartment-retail complex – was opened in 1983 and generated considerable national attention. The 58-story structure features a grand atrium, a 60-foot-high (18.3 meters) waterfall, luxurious apartments and retail stores.
Looking to profit off the growing casino market, Trump acquired and re-built the Taj Mahal (pictured), a hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, for a rumored $1.2 billion. It was relaunched as the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in 1990.
In May 2017, Trump reportedly sold the hotel, which he earlier labeled the “eighth wonder of the world,” for $50 million.
He continued to buy new business ventures and diversify his holdings, acquiring Eastern Air Lines Shuttle for $365 million in 1989 and renaming it Trump Shuttle. Three years later, his dream of an uber-expensive airline service ran out of cash and defaulted on its debt.
Following the real estate slump of the late 1980s and early ’90s, Trump’s empire took a hit and sustained itself almost wholly on loans. His own valuation of the company was $1.5 billion; Forbes’ valued it at only a third of that figure.
In 1991, Trump divorced Ivana and, two years later, married American actress Marla Maples. The marriage lasted for four years before Trump filed for divorce in 1997. The divorce was finalized in 1999 and Maples received $2 million under the prenuptial agreement. Together, they have a daughter, Tiffany.
Trump’s first serious stab at entering politics was on Oct. 7, 1999, when he formed an exploratory committee to decide on seeking the Reform Party’s candidacy for the 2000 U.S. presidential election.
The businessman, who claimed he could achieve universal healthcare and eliminate national debt as president, named popular talk show host and media magnate Oprah Winfrey as his ideal running mate. His campaign never went beyond this phase – he failed to gain support for his bid.
Between 2004 and 2015, Trump hosted and starred in the NBC reality TV series “The Apprentice” (2004-15; pictured), a show on which three of his children – Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric – also made appearances.
In 2005, Trump married Slovenian model-turned-jewelry designer Melania Knauss, with whom he has a son, Barron William.
In 2012, Trump considered entering politics yet again – another run for president. However, his reputation took a hit after he associated himself with the “Birther” movement – a group that believed then-U.S. President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the country.
(Pictured) With Obama during Trump’s presidential inauguration in January 2017.
On June 16, 2015, Trump announced a run for the Republican ticket for the 2016 presidential election. One of the more controversial candidates in recent times, he dominated media coverage with outrageous comments about fellow candidates and contentious immigration policies.
On May 26, 2016, Trump received the support of 1,238 delegates and secured the Republican Party’s nomination for the next presidential race. He beat U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Ohio Governor John Kasich, among others, and was confirmed as their nominee on July 19.
Trump faced Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in three debates: on Sept. 26, Oct. 4 and Oct. 9, 2016, as part of the build-up to the election on Nov. 8, 2016.
On Nov. 9, Trump defeated Clinton to become the 45th U.S. President. In a close battle, the 70-year-old candidate won more than the required number of Electoral College votes but lost the popular vote.
Trump’s presidential inauguration was on Jan. 20, 2017, and, in his first week as U.S. president, he signed six Executive Orders, including the reinforcement of border security and the planning of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In March 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13780, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, which limited travel into the U.S. from certain countries. It also limited the inflow of refugees without valid travel documents.
In September that year, he signed Presidential Proclamation 9645, which expanded on the previous order. It restricted travel from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.
In December, the Supreme Court allowed the ban to go into full effect, pending legal challenges.
Rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change and asserting that the Paris Agreement would do very little to ease global warming, Trump announced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the climate accords in June 2017, making his nation the only one in the world to not ratify the agreement.
In December, he signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which reduced personal tax brackets, increased child tax credit and cut corporate tax rate to 21 percent, among other reforms.
In the same month, he also signed Space Policy Directive 1, which marked a change in the nation’s space policy. It would now allow an U.S.-led integrated program with partners from the private sector, ensuring another human landing on the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.
In January 2018, Trump delivered his first State of the Union Address, where he called on all politicians to “summon the unity” necessary to fix the country’s infrastructure and flawed immigration systems.
During his time as a running Presidential candidate, Trump said he intended to roll back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed people who illegally entered or stayed in the U.S. as minors to receive a renewable period of deferred action from deportation (for two years) and also be eligible for a work permit.
In September 2017, the Trump administration announced DACA would be repealed after six months, which led to nationwide protests.
In January 2018, after a number of flip-flops on the decision, the White House finally agreed to release a “legislative framework” outlining a compromise on DACA, provided a considerable amount (around $30B) is appropriated for the border wall.
Trump’s foreign policies have grabbed eyeballs (and controversy) across the world. These include working on relations with Cuba, the violence-marred shifting of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and trying to lift sanctions against Russia.
However, none of these have quite transfixed the world as the attempt solve the North Korea crisis. In July 2017, under the supervision of its leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The following month, Trump warned Kim that further provocations would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
By March the following year, after a historic summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the White House confirmed Trump would meet Kim in Singapore in June. True to his negotiating style, the U.S. president then threatened to pull out of the meeting before appearing to relent and re-confirm the potentially world-changing June 12 meet.
“France is a sovereign country which makes sovereign decisions about its tax regime and it will continue to make sovereign decisions about its tax regime.”
UK plans almost identical tax
France’s digital services tax could be seen as a test case for other European countries to introduce similar tax regimes. The UK, for example, has announced an almost identical plan, which Boris Johnson, the likely next UK prime minister, has indicated his support for.
Biggest news stories of 2019 (Photos)
Jan. 1: Austria legalizes same-sex marriage
Deeming all existing laws discriminatory, the Constitutional Court of Austria legalized marriage between same-sex couples. In doing so, Austria joined several other European nations such as Germany, France and Spain. Prior to this, same-sex couples in the country were only allowed to enter legal partnerships but not get married.
(Pictured) Revelers participate in the EuroPride event in Vienna, Austria, on June 15.
Jan. 1: Qatar withdraws from OPEC
In December 2018, Qatar’s Minister of Energy Saad Sherida al-Kaabi announced that the nation would withdraw from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), claiming that the move represents a “technical and strategic” change. The country made the decision after analyzing ways to make its international standing better. The withdrawal came into effect on the first day of 2019, bringing an end to over 50 years of membership.
Jan. 3: China accomplishes first landing on the far side of moon
China became the first nation in the world to safely and successfully land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon. The side of the moon never faces Earth, so any mission would require a relay satellite. China’s Queqiao relay satellite helped the Chang’e-4 probe land at the Von Kármán crater. The mission aims to study the age and composition of the region and getting more information about the early solar system and Earth.
(Pictured) The Yutu-2 rover is photographed by Chang’e-4 on the moon.
Jan. 25: Brazil dam disaster kills over 230
A dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine ruptured near the municipality of Brumadinho, letting loose a massive mudflow which destroyed the mine offices during lunchtime, along with several houses, roads and farms. Around three months later, the Civil Police of Minas Gerais posted a final death tally of 237, with 33 missing.
Jan. 28: US charges Huawei with fraud
Adding to the trade tension between the two countries, the U.S. filed 23 charges against Chinese telecom company Huawei and its Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou. The charges included theft of technology, obstruction of justice and bank fraud. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (pictured) said, “For years, Chinese firms have broken our export laws and undermined sanctions, often using US financial systems to facilitate their illegal activities. This will end.” Huawei rejected the charges in a statement, saying it didn’t commit “any of the asserted violations” and that it “is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng.”
Feb. 3: First papal visit to Arabian Peninsula
Pope Francis became the first in history to visit the Arabian Peninsula after arriving in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The purpose of the visit was to participate in a conference on Christian-Muslim relations and hold a huge mass at the Abu Dhabi sports arena for the Catholic community there.
Feb. 12: Macedonia is renamed
Bringing an end to a decades-long dispute with Greece and taking a step forward for integration into NATO and the European Union, the Republic of Macedonia officially changed its name to Republic of North Macedonia. According to state spokesman Mile Boshnjakovski, the national language would still be called “Macedonian.”
Feb. 14: Suicide attack kills Indian security forces, sparks conflict with Pakistan
Forty Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed as an explosives-laden vehicle rammed into their bus in the district of Pulwama, India. India blamed Pakistan for the attack, and in the fallout, the Indian Air Force reportedly bombed a terrorist training camp in Pakistan on Feb. 26. The two countries came close to war before tensions de-escalated.
Feb. 19: Karl Lagerfeld dies
The iconic fashion designer, who was the creative director for Chanel, died at the age of 85 in Paris, France. Lagerfeld, who is credited for reinventing the Chanel and Fendi brands, had been keeping unwell for several weeks.
March 5: Stem cell transplant makes patient’s HIV ‘undetectable’
In only the second case of its kind, a stem cell transplant made a London patient’s HIV “undetectable.” Doctors reported that he was in remission for 18 months and had stopped taking HIV drugs. Although experts suggest that it’s too early to say that he was completely cured of HIV, but this marks a step closer to finding a cure.
March 10: Ethiopian Airlines plane crash kills 157
The Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed near the town of Bishoftu, Ethiopia, after taking off from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. All 157 people onboard lost their lives and the crash resembled that of a Lion Air plane in October 2018. Both aircraft were Boeing 737 MAX 8 models, sparking a global debate about its safety and resulting in the grounding of the model by carriers and regulators around the globe.
(Pictured) An investigator with the U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board explores the crash site.
March 14: Cyclone Idai makes landfall in Mozambique
Over 1,000 people lost their lives after the Category 3 cyclone made landfall in Mozambique, wreaking havoc in the country along with neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi. It resulted in heavy rains and flooding of rivers, which inundated entire villages. According to estimates by the World Bank, the affected countries faced financial damages of over $2 billion.
March 15: Terror attack kills 50 in New Zealand
At least 50 people were killed and 50 more wounded after a gunman opened fire at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch. The assailant, later identified as Australian citizen Brenton Harrison Tarrant, was arrested and charged with murder. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the attacks as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” and the country passed a sweeping ban on semi-automatics and assault rifles six days later.
(Pictured) Ardern hugs a mourner in Wellington on March 17.
April 10: First-ever image of black hole is unveiled
Captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, the first ever image of a black hole was released on this day. Located in the Messier 87 galaxy, the black hole is 500 million trillion km away from Earth and nearly three million times the size of our planet.
April 11: Julian Assange is arrested
After seven years of taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, England, the WikiLeaks co-founder was arrested after he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court. He also faces federal conspiracy charges in the U.S. for leaks of government secrets. Presently, extradition hearings are going on against Assange in the British courts.
April 15: Fire breaks out at Notre-Dame Cathedral
A fire broke out at the 850-year-old cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France, causing heavy damage to the iconic structure. A large part of the roof and its spire was destroyed in the blaze. Officials suggested that the fire may have been ignited by ongoing renovation work at the gothic landmark.
April 21: Serial bomb blasts rattle Sri Lankan capital
On Easter Sunday, a series of bomb blasts at churches, hotels and a housing complex in and around Colombo killed more than 250 people and wounded hundreds others. An island-wide curfew was imposed until the next day. On April 23, the Islamic State militant outfit claimed responsibility for the attacks.
April 21: Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is elected Ukraine president
In a runoff election, Ukrainian comedian and Servant of the People party’s Volodymyr Zelensky scored a landslide victory to become the sixth president of the nation. He defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko, taking more than 73 percent of the votes.
April 26: Kim Jong Un meets with Vladimir Putin
North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un visited Russia for a summit with President Vladimir Putin and other leaders of the nation. Putin said that Kim “talked freely on all issues that were on the agenda,” adding that the North Korean leader needs international security guarantees in exchange for ending the country’s nuclear program. The meeting came after talks between the U.S. and North Korea broke down in February.
April 30: Uprising against Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro
Nicolás Maduro’s re-election to a second term in May 2018 was met with flak amid claims of vote-rigging and opposition boycott. In January 2019, Popular Will party leader Juan Guaidó (pictured) declared himself interim president, gaining support from the citizens as well as winning recognition from over 50 nations. On April 30, he led an uprising called “Operation Freedom” to oust Maduro’s regime. At least four people were reportedly killed in the ensuing clashes.
April 30: First abdication by a Japanese monarch in two centuries
The first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years, Emperor Akihito stepped down from the Chrysanthemum Throne, marking the end of the Heisei era. A day later, his son Naruhito ascended the throne, ushering in the Reiwa era.
May 1: Thai king marries a commoner
In a surprise ceremony, Thailand King Maha Vajiralongkorn married the deputy head of his personal security unit. A royal statement said: the king “has decided to promote General Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, his royal consort, to become Queen Suthida and she will hold royal title and status as part of the royal family.”
May 6: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor is born
Seventh in line of succession to the British throne, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor was born to Prince Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
May 6: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ becomes fastest to reach $2B mark
Within just the second weekend of its release, “Avengers: Endgame” became the fastest to cross $2 billion in global collections. It toppled the collection of “Titanic” (1997), which stands at $2.18 billion, in 11 days. The collection of “Endgame” in the last week of June was $2.75 billion and the only film that surpasses it is “Avatar” (2009), with a worldwide collection of $2.78 billion.
(L-R) Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, actors Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans. Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo at a Hand and Footprint Ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on April 23.
*Collection figures from BoxOfficeMojo and correct as of June 27.
May 17: Taiwan legalizes same-sex marriage
Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. A constitutional court had already ruled the same in 2017 and the parliament was given a two-year deadline to pass the changes.
May 20: Niki Lauda passes away
The three-time Formula One world champion from Austria died at the age of 70, after undergoing a lung transplant eight months back. “With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday,” his family said in a statement released by an Austrian press agency. Lauda won the F1 title in 1975, 1977 and 1984.
May 23: Narendra Modi’s landslide win in Indian general elections
In an election that saw as many as 900 million citizens casting their votes, incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attained a landslide victory, winning 303 out of 543 seats. The substantial win confirmed a second term for Modi as the country’s prime minister.
(Pictured) Modi takes oath at the swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi, on May 30.
June 7: Theresa May formally resigns
After nearly three years of serving as the U.K. prime minister, May formally quit as the leader of the ruling Conservative Party over failed Brexit negotiations. She remains the prime minister until the party elects a new leader in July 2019.
(Pictured) May breaks down as she makes the first official announcement of her resignation on May 24.
June 9: Over a million protest Hong Kong extradition bill
Nearly 1.03 million people attended a march protesting a proposed legislation that allows extradition of individuals, including foreign nationals, to mainland China to stand trial. After the protests turned violent, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that the bill would be indefinitely suspended. However, protests have continued so as to ensure the complete withdrawal of the bill.
June 18: Marta becomes top goalscorer in soccer World Cup history
With her goal against Italy during a FIFA Women’s World Cup match in Valenciennes, France, Brazilian striker Marta (#10) overtook German star Miroslav Klose as the leading goalscorer in women’s or men’s World Cup tournaments. This was her 17th goal at the World Cup.
June 19: Four charged in MH17 crash case
In July 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was shot down while flying over Ukraine, killing 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Nearly five years later, a Dutch-led joint investigation team (JIT) charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with bringing a missile into the area and with murder. Global arrest warrants have been issued for the four suspects, and the court hearing will begin in the Netherlands on March 9, 2020.
Trump’s call for an investigation marks a change in tone for the president, who has spent weeks attacking America’s biggest tech firms over their perceived liberal bias and potential antitrust issues. He has even threatened to sue firms like Google and Facebook.
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