Emmanuel Macron has said he was proud to support US taxi company Uber and would “do it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow” after revelations of his efforts to help the company lobby against the shuttered taxi industry in France.
Several French political figures from the left to the far right, as well as the leader of the left-wing trade union CGT, have called for a parliamentary investigation into reports that Macron had secret, unreported meetings with Uber when he was economy minister from 2014 to 2016 and that he he had told Uber that he had brokered a “deal” with the bitterly divided Socialist cabinet then in power under François Hollande.
The revelations are contained in the Uber files: a cache of 124,000 company documents leaked to The Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
On the sidelines of an event to commemorate the construction of a new semiconductor factory in Crolles, a Le Monde journalist questioned Macron about having met with Uber officials between 2014 and 2016.
“I was a minister and I did my job,” he said. “We have seen too much of an atmosphere where meeting with business heads, particularly when they are foreigners, is seen as bad.” He said his meetings with business leaders were “always official” and included members of his staff.
He said, “I’m proud of it. If they have created jobs in France, I am very proud of that, and you know what, I would do it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow”.
He said he was announcing a new investment and the promise of 1,500 new jobs at Crolles precisely because “several months ago, and confidentially – because we have to preserve company secrets – he met with the head of GlobalFoundries , who is here today”.
Macron said that as president he had been the world’s most outspoken leader about regulating internet giants. “When I became president, we regulated the sector mercilessly. We are the first country that regulated online platforms and after that we pushed it to European level. So I’m extremely proud.”
He told reporters: “You know what, here’s a scoop: It’s very difficult to create jobs without companies and entrepreneurs. So I will continue to meet with companies and entrepreneurs to convince them to invest in our country and I will do everything possible to open sectors where activity is blocked, to create jobs. Because every young person who has had a job opportunity thanks to that, I’m glad.”
Asked why, however, he was facing strong criticism for his dealings with Uber from the left-wing opposition coalition, Nupes, in parliament, said “because they have lost their compass.” And he added: “When you believe in social justice and equal opportunities, you have to fight for young people from difficult areas to find work. That has never been his fight. But it has been mine.
He added: “If we don’t fight for education, training and the creation of innovation, that is, economic opportunities, we will continue to have unemployment. And our unemployment, even if it has decreased in the last five years, is still too high.”
Macron said the “victims” of unemployment in France were young people who had fewer qualifications and were “victims of discrimination”. He said that is why he was fighting for full employment.
In the first question session in the new French parliament on Tuesday, Danielle Simonnet of the far-left party France Unbowed called for a parliamentary investigation and criticized Macron as “a minister who served the interests of an American platform against the government opinion”. and the French administration. She referenced Le Monde’s report that Mark McGann, the career lobbyist who led Uber’s efforts to win over governments in Europe, later supported Macron’s 2016-2017 presidential campaign.
The deputy minister, Olivia Grégoire, responded to parliament that Macron, as economy minister, had “done his job”. She added: “He met Uber, he also met, let’s be precise: Netflix, Airbnb, Tesla, and closer to home, [the French businesses] Doctolib, Backmarket. Why? Because these businesses are at the heart of today’s economy, at the heart of the 21st century economy, and it’s a reality, no matter what you think about it, that’s where the growth and jobs are.”
Grégoire added: “Who drove the regulation of the digital giants in Europe? France. Who promoted the need not to abuse personal data? France. Who is the country that first proposed taxing the net giants? France. Who is the country that paid the price for that when they were sanctioned by President Trump? France. So yes, the president, when he was economy minister, took all the measures to encourage the arrival but also the protection of consumers.