By The Washington Post · James McAuley
Bruno Le Maire, France's Finance Minister, vowed what he called a "strong European riposte" on Trump's proposed tariffs - as much as 100 percent on approximately $2.4 billion in imported goods, included beloved wines, cheeses and certain designer clothes.
"This is not the behavior we expect from the United States vis-a-vis one of its principal allies, France, and, in a general manner, Europe," Le Maire said, speaking on France's Radio Classique. He called the proposed tariffs "unacceptable."
Agnes Pannier-Runacher, a junior French economy minister, was even more unflinching in her remarks. "We need to be pugnacious," she said Tuesday, speaking to France's Sud Radio.
The Trump administration's proposal, announced late Monday, comes in retaliation to an earlier French tax on certain U.S. tech firms, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. (Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and chief executive officer, also owns The Washington Post).
Known as the "GAFA," the tax entails 3% of the annual revenue that those four firms earn in France. It has long been a point of contention between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, who initially enjoyed a relatively drama-free relationship. They have butted heads, however, ever since Macron failed to convince Trump to preserve the Iran deal in 2018, a signature policy achievement of the Obama administration.
"They're our companies, they're American companies," Trump said. "If anyone is going to take advantage of the American companies, it's going to be us. It's not going to be France."
Trump also disparaged controversial remarks about NATO that Macron made last month as "very, very nasty." In an interview with the Economist, the French president described what he called NATO's "brain death," which he couched largely as a function of diminished American support under Trump.
Macron had struggled to find broad E.U. support for his digital tax, so France's threat of a "strong European riposte" to the U.S. on its behalf is unclear.
"In this, as in all other trade related matters, the European Union will act and react as one," said Daniel Rosario, the European Commission's spokesman for trade and agriculture, speaking to reporters in Brussels on Tuesday.
Rosario said that the E.U. would "seek immediate discussions with the United States on how to solve this issue amicably."
The Trump administration's announcement had an immediate impact on the markets on Tuesday morning. Shares in Hermès, the French luxury brand known for handbags and silks, dropped by roughly 2%; those of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH fell by 1.5%.