For the third year as president, France’s President Emmanuel Macron talked to the French tech ecosystem at VivaTech in Paris. This time, he used the opportunity to defend his policies so far and say that tech startups have nearly everything they need to succeed.
Frichti’s Julia Bijaoui, TransferWise’s Flora Coleman, OpenClassrooms’ Pierre Dubuc, Vinted’s Thomas Plantenga and UiPath’s Daniel Dines shared the stage with Macron and each asked one question about funding, European regulation, talent, the digital single market, etc.
Just like last year, Macron took a strong stance when it comes to corporate taxes. “In order to compete with American giants, you need to make sure that competition is fair. You pay taxes, so the tech giant that is competing against you should pay taxes too,” Macron said.
France recently approved a tax on tech giants. If you generate more than €750 million in revenue globally and €25 million in France, you must pay 3% of your French revenue in taxes, even if your company is registered in Ireland, Luxembourg or the Netherlands.
“It’s a temporary measure because we want a tax at the European level, and more generally at the OECD level,” Macron said.
When it comes to funding, things look much better now than a few years ago. There are now more than a handful of French unicorns. And Macron defended his taxation policies, such as the flat tax on capital gain and the end of the wealth tax on your shares in public or private companies.
And yet, it’s still complicated when it comes to exits — if you want to go down the public road, you most likely have to IPO in the U.S. “We have to build a European financial capital market,” Macron said. “It’ll require some modifications and deeper European integration,” he added later.
Given that Europe is about to vote for the European Parliament, a lot of Macron’s solutions involved the European Union. It sometimes felt like Macron was campaigning for his own party by saying that he wants to go further, but you need to vote for his party first.
When it comes to talent, Macron emphasized the quality of French universities and engineering schools. “We are competitive in terms of human capital and it’s no coincidence. A few years ago, everybody was saying ‘there are a lot of French people in Silicon Valley.’ French people living in France are the same, but they cost much, much less,” Macron said.
He then mentioned the French Tech Visa to attract foreign talent, a special visa for tech talent and their families. The program was overhauled a couple of months ago.
When it comes to regulation, Macron says that the European Union should follow the GDPR model. “What we did on privacy, one regulation for all, we have to do it for other areas,” he said. “On competition, on taxation, on data, we need to regulate.”
Macron concluded by defending a third way to regulate and foster tech companies, which is different from China and the U.S. “Europe can become the tech leader of tomorrow because we are building a tech ecosystem that is compatible with democracy,” he said.
According to him, China doesn’t do enough when it comes to individual rights and human rights, which could eventually backfire for tech companies. And American companies have become too powerful and out of control for the U.S. government.