G7 finance ministers look to rein in tech giants at French meeting

There are concerns the growing powers of big tech companies, such as Facebook, are increasingly encroaching on areas belonging to governments, like issuing currency. (AP)
Updated 17 July 2019

G7 finance ministers look to rein in tech giants at French meeting

  • Concerns that the growing powers of big tech companies are increasingly encroaching on areas belonging to governments
  • ‘These digital giants are turning into private states — states over which citizens have no control and where democracy has no place’

CHANTILLY, France: G7 finance ministers will have the growing powers of big digital firms in their sights when they meet on Wednesday outside Paris despite divisions about how best to tax them.
France wants to use its presidency of the two-day meeting in the picturesque chateau town of Chantilly north of Paris to get broad support for ensuring minimum corporate taxation.
G7 governments are concerned that decades-old international tax rules have been pushed to the limit by the emergence of Facebook and Apple, which book profits in low-tax countries regardless of the source of the underlying income.
The issue has become more vexed than ever in recent days as Paris defied US President Donald Trump last week by passing a tax on big digital firms’ revenues in France despite a threat from him to launch a probe that could lead to trade tariffs.
“France is a sovereign nation and will continue of course to decide as a sovereign nation on all taxation issues,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said at a conference at the French central bank on the eve of the G7 meeting.
“So, let’s work during the G7 ... on that key question of digital taxation because this is for us the best way to fix this issue,” Le Maire added.
Their bilateral dispute aside, France and the United States are in favor of rules ensuring minimum taxation as part of an effort among 139 countries to overhaul international tax rules.
Although a G7 agreement would set the tone for the broader push, an agreement among all of the G7 ministers on a minimum rate or range of rates is likely to prove elusive as Britain and Canada have reservations, a French Finance Ministry source said on Friday.
Common ground should be found more easily among ministers and central bankers present at the meeting on the issue of digital currencies and coins.
Facebook’s recent announcement of plans to launch a digital coin has met with a chorus from regulators, central bankers and governments insisting it must respect anti-money-laundering rules and ensure the security of transactions and user data.
But there are also deeper concerns that the growing powers of big tech companies increasingly encroach on areas belonging to governments, like issuing currency.
“These digital giants are turning into private states – states over which citizens have no control and where democracy has no place,” Le Maire said.
“We cannot let companies, which are serving private interests, gather all the attributes of sovereign states. We must act,” he added.
Off the official agenda, ministers are also due to consult on possible successors to replace Christine Lagarde at the head of the International Monetary Fund.
US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and some European ministers are due to meet with Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who has been mooted as a possible candidate for the IMF job.


Oil retreats in face of renewed coronavirus uncertainty

Updated 22 February 2020

Oil retreats in face of renewed coronavirus uncertainty

  • G20 finance leaders to meet in Saudi Arabia at the weekend to discuss risks to the global economy
  • OPEC+ has been withholding supply to support prices and many analysts expect an extension or deepening of the curbs

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Friday as weak Asian data and a rise in new coronavirus cases fuelled uncertainty about the economic outlook while leading crude producers appeared to be in no rush to curb output.

Brent crude was down $1.56, or 2.6 percent, at $57.75 in afternoon trade, while U.S. crude dropped $1.25, or 2.3 percent, to $52.63.

"With Brent failing to breach the $60 level on Thursday despite better than expected U.S. oil inventory data, rising market uncertainty is dragging down oil prices on Friday," said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

"Market participants who benefited from the price rise in recent days might prefer not to go into the weekend with a long position."

 

China reports rise in coronavirus cases.

Japan factory activity shrinks at fastest pace since 2012.

Russia says early OPEC+ meeting no longer makes sense.

Finance leaders from the Group of 20 major economies meet in Saudi Arabia at the weekend to discuss risks to the global economy after new Asian economic and health data kept investors on guard.

Beijing reported an uptick in coronavirus cases on Friday and South Korea reported 100 new cases, doubling its infections. In Japan, meanwhile, more than 80 people have tested positive for the virus.

Factory activity in Japan registered its steepest contraction in seven years in February, hurt by fallout from the outbreak. 

"We still believe that the market is likely to trade lower from current levels, given the scale of the surplus over the first half of this year, and the need for the market to send a signal to OPEC+ that they must take further action at their meeting in early March," said ING analyst Warren Patterson.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that global oil producers understood it would no longer make sense for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies to meet before the planned gathering.

The group, known as OPEC+, has been withholding supply to support prices and many analysts expect an extension or deepening of the curbs.