The USTR may reserve the right to impose tariffs on approximately US $ 500 million of French products, including sparkling wines, handbags and makeup
The United States will announce sanctions against France over its digital services tax, but will postpone them while France postpones tax collection on US technology companies, the US Trade Representative (USTR) said on Thursday , Robert Lighthizer.
The sanctions are linked to an American investigation under article 301 on the digital tax in France, which, according to Washington, discriminates against American technology companies such as Google, Facebook Inc and Apple Inc. of Alphabet Inc.
Last month, the United States withdrew from multilateral talks to reach a global solution on the taxation of digital services, citing a lack of progress in the negotiations.
“We will announce that we are going to take certain sanctions against France, suspend them as if they were suspending the collection of taxes at this time,” said Lighthizer at an online event hosted by London-based think tank Chatham House.
Officials from the EU delegation and the French Embassy in Washington were not immediately available for comment.
A source said that the USTR could reserve the right to impose tariffs on approximately $ 500 million worth of French products that were on a longer list released last December, while delaying implementation.
The USTR said last December it could impose punitive duties of up to 100% on $ 2.4 billion in imports from France, including products such as champagne, handbags and cheese, after concluding that the French tax would harm American technology companies.
The list targeted certain products that were spared the 25% tariffs imposed by the United States on controversial subsidies for EU aircraft, including sparkling wines, handbags and makeup.
The issue is to be discussed at meetings of the G7 and G20 finance ministers in the coming weeks.
Lighthizer also said on Thursday that the world needed a multilateral system to govern world trade or a series of bilateral agreements, but the two were in conflict with each other, adding that proliferation by the Europe of 77 bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) was “one of the greatest challenges of the multilateral trading system. ”
He said that to revive the multilateral trading system dedicated to the WTO, it was necessary to “reset” world tariff rates, the end of the establishment of new trade rules through WTO litigation and new Ways to Effectively Address China’s State-Led Economic Problems. model and non-tariff barriers, such as product and food safety standards.
“FTAs, in my opinion, we should just get rid of. We should have a multilateral system or a set of bilateral systems, ”said Lighthizer. “And to be honest, I can go both ways, but we can’t have people who … profess multilateralism and then become the main proponents of a bilateral system.”
Last week, the United States launched a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, and are negotiating bilateral trade agreements with the United Kingdom and Kenya after activating a “phase 1” trade agreement with China in February.
Lighthizer and President Donald Trump have long argued that bilateral trade deals are better for the United States than multilateral deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the partnership during his third day in office in 2017.
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