Uber Files puts Emmanuel Macron’s neoliberalism in the spotlight

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In 2017, newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron trumpeted a new vision for his country’s economic future. “I want France to be a start-up nation,” he said, expressing his desire to make France a competitive tech player on the global stage and usher in a blossoming of Silicon-like businesses. Valley.

Half a decade later, Macron can point to a record of success. In January, he hailed the emergence of 25 French tech “unicorns” – each valued at over $1 billion – well ahead of his earlier goal of having 25 such companies by 2025. In 2019 , the once notoriously statist France had already emerged as the leader. destination of foreign investment throughout Europe.

This is partly due to the liberalization measures imposed by the French president, including reductions in the corporate tax rate, a flat tax on capital gains and the simplification of the French labor code which has facilitated the hiring and firing of employees. The Macron government has encouraged billions of dollars in foreign investment in the tech sector and offered generous tax credits to certain types of tech companies.

“American funds were afraid of France for mythical reasons: taxes, strikes, lots of fantasy,” Romain Lavault, general partner at Partech Ventures in Paris, told Bloomberg News last year. “They were wooed, and it worked.”

About the Uber Files survey

His political opponents, who fought Macron in a cycle of deadly presidential and parliamentary elections this year, have long lamented Macron’s approach. They argued that this had broken France’s social solidarity and deepened economic inequality. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has denounced what he has dubbed the “uberization” of French society – invoking the American leviathan of carpooling as part of a catch-all descriptor of perceived aggression by Macron against the rights of French workers serving the interests of the wealthy elites.

Until this week, we weren’t quite sure how on-the-nose that term was. Amid a slew of revelations contained in a gigantic leak of documents, there is considerable evidence of Macron’s intimate relationship with Uber while he was France’s economy minister from 2014 to 2016. As noted by my colleague Rick Noack: “Macron’s support has gone well beyond what has been publicly known. and occasionally was in conflict with the policy of the left-wing government he served.

The company’s more than 124,000 documents were leaked by Mark MacGann, a former senior Uber executive and EU lobbyist, to the Guardian. The outlet shared the vast treasure with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which helped spearhead the project, and dozens of other news outlets, including the Washington Post. The Uber records, which date from 2013 to 2017, reveal the ride-sharing company’s aggressive entry into cities around the world, while frequently questioning the scope of existing laws and regulations.

“I was the one talking to governments, I was the one pushing this with the media, I was the one telling people they should change the rules because drivers were going to benefit and people were going to get so much of economic opportunity,” MacGann said in an interview published Monday. “When that turned out not to be the case – we had actually been selling people lies – how can you have peace of mind if you don’t stand up and acknowledge your contribution to the way people are treated today?”

MacGann had a direct line with Macron when the latter was economy minister. In one instance, after local Marseille officials banned the UberX service in the fall of 2015, MacGann texted Macron for help. “I will look into this personally,” Macron replied. “Let’s stay calm at this point.” The town hall of Marseille quickly backtracked.

As the documents reveal, Macron was seen internally by Uber as a “true ally.” At a time when Uber’s notoriously aggressive expansion tactics landed it in legal hot water, Macron and his staff held several undeclared meetings with company executives.

Uber executives “believed Macron was ready to support them in pushing for more lenient treatment from regulators,” Noack wrote. Even as Uber’s legal scrutiny began to mount — including from the Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Enforcement Branch — authorities attached to Marcon’s own department, MacGann wrote in an email. in 2014 to his colleagues that the French president had “asked his cabinet to speak to the DGCCRF to ask them to be ‘less conservative'” in interpreting the law.

Asked before the documents were released, the French presidency said in a statement to the Post and other media that “the economic and employment policies of the time, in which [Macron] was an active participant, are well known” and that his “duties naturally led him to meet and interact with many companies”.

Macron’s defense of Uber and similar work is no secret. In a 2016 interview, he defended the company, telling his interviewer to go to a poor suburb and “tell the young people there who voluntarily work for Uber that it would be better to do nothing or sell dope”.

Uber promised South Africans a better life but knew drivers risked getting into debt and in danger

But the Uber Files have unleashed a new firestorm of criticism. They show that Macron is “a lobbyist at the service of foreign private economic interests”, far-right politician Sébastien Chenu told France Info radio on Monday morning, calling the president “an ideologue of deregulation, globalization “.

Aurélien Taché, a former member of Macron’s centrist party who is now part of the left-wing opposition in parliament, called the findings a “state scandal” that raised questions about the “conception of loyalty in politics” of Macron. Fabien Roussel, leader of the French Communist Party, said Macron’s behavior was “against all our rules, all our social laws and against workers’ rights”. Mathilde Panot, parliamentary leader of Mélenchon’s party, said Macron had presided over the “looting of the country” and had been the agent of an “American multinational aimed at permanently deregulating labor rights”.

Although they have few constitutional mechanisms to question Macron, opposition lawmakers hope to launch some form of special inquiry into his actions. A separate no-confidence vote against Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne failed on Monday.

Macron, as he has done for much of his term, stayed on the sidelines. On Monday, he hosted a large summit of some 180 foreign business leaders in the Palace of Versailles. Billions of dollars in new deals were on the table, including a nearly $6 billion proposal to build a new semiconductor factory near the Italian and Swiss borders. The event is called “Choose France”.

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