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France added more kindling to a growing commercial dispute between Europe and the United States, announcing Wednesday it would sue American tech giants Google and Apple over allegedly abusive business practices.
After peanut butter, cranberries and bourbon, Google and Apple are the latest American icons in Europe’s crosshairs. Speaking to French radio Wednesday, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire accused the two U.S. companies of unilaterally imposing prices and other terms on French startups.
Google and Apple may be powerful, Le Maire said, but they should not be able to treat French startups and developers the way they currently do.
France has taken legal action against the companies before. But this latest dispute comes amid a potential trade war, as Washington prepares to slap tariffs against steel and aluminum imports.
The European Union has vowed countermeasures on products such as peanut butter if the bloc is not exempted from the U.S. measures, which may take effect next week. But European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told the EU Parliament Wednesday she hopes that will not happen.
“As long as the measures have not entered into force, we hope to avoid a significant trade dispute,” she said. “The root problem, as many of you have said, is overcapacity in steel and aluminum sectors.”
Malmstrom said the European Union and the United States should instead work together to end unfair subsidies by some countries and level the trading field.
France has a mixed relationship with U.S. internet companies — both encouraging them to invest here, but also to pay more EU taxes — as it tries to build its home-grown industry.
Last year, it also threatened fines against Amazon for allegedly abusing its dominant position with suppliers. French justice has yet to rule on the case.