“They shouldn’t have done this,” Trump said Friday, speaking to reporters. “I told them, I said, ‘Don’t do it because if you do it, I’m going to tax your wine.’ ”
In France, where wine remains one of the most sacred national products, these were seen as fighting words. But Trump — a self-proclaimed teetotaler — escalated the situation even further.
“I’ve always liked American wines better than French wines — even though I don’t drink wine,” he said. “I just like the way they look, okay?”
As might be expected, this particular value judgment did not sit well in France.
“It’s absurd, in terms of having a political and economic debate, to say that ‘if you tax the GAFAs, I’ll tax wine.’ It’s completely moronic,” French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said Tuesday morning, speaking on France’s BFM Television.
But he also added a crucial distinction. “American wine is not better than French wine,” Guillaume said.
GAFA is the acronym used widely in Europe to denote Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. The new French tax would impose a 3 percent tax on certain revenue these firms earn in France, on the grounds that digital companies should pay tax based on where they do business and not just where their physical headquarters are located. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has attempted to calm the waters and avert a potential trade standoff.
“It’s in our interest to have a fair digital tax,” Le Maire told reporters Friday. “Please do not mix the two issues. The key question now is how we can get consensus on fair taxation of digital activities.”