Primed to retaliate with European Union over USA tariff threat against Paris

"The USTR is focused on countering the growing protectionism of European Union member states, which unfairly targets us companies", Lighthizer said.

French sparkling wine, yoghurt and Roquefort cheese are on the latest list of goods that could be targeted as soon as mid-January, after a report from the U.S. trade representative's office found the digital tax penalises American tech companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. The move comes hours after President Donald Trump announced a barrage of other tariffs on steel and aluminum from Argentina and Brazil.

The USTR report "concluded that France's Digital Services Tax (DST) discriminates against US companies, is inconsistent with prevailing principles of global tax policy, and is unusually burdensome for affected US companies".

Sparkling wine, cheeses, handbags and makeup are on the list of potential tariff targets, according to the notice.

"I'm not in love with those (tech) companies, but they're our companies", Trump said Tuesday ahead of a sure-to-be-tense meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in London. The two struck a compromise in August at a G7 summit in France that would refund USA firms the difference between the French tax and a new mechanism being drawn up through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the U.S. government was also exploring whether to open similar investigations into the digital services taxes of Austria, Italy and Turkey.

"What we want is a plan for global tax that is on the table" at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Le Maire said. But French Finance Minister Le Maire said ahead of the USTR announcement that the USA has backed off from supporting an OECD compromise.

French junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Sud Radio that France would be "pugnacious" in its dealings with the United States on the matter, and that France would not back down on its digital tax plans.

"We will not give up on taxation" of digital firms, the official said.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire branded the US threat unacceptable and said the French tax did not discriminate against American companies. The new legislation imposes a 3% annual levy on French revenues of major companies, and applies retroactively, from the beginning of 2019. France wants digital companies to pay their fair share of taxes in countries where they make money instead of using tax havens, and is pushing for an worldwide agreement on the issue.

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The Office of US Trade Representative released a list of the items that face tariffs at rates up to 100% - which include make-up, cheese, and handbags.

An attempt to agree on a Europe-wide tax fell through earlier this year when four countries - Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Ireland - declined to sign off on it.

Other European countries are also planning to levy a digital tax without waiting for the OECD.

"If (the world) wants solid tax revenue in the 21st century, we have to be able to tax the digital economy", he said.

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