Emmanuel Macron has said he was proud of supporting the US cab-hailing company Uber and would “do it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow”, after revelations of his efforts to help the firm lobby against France’s closed-shop taxi industry.
Several French political figures from the left to the far right, as well as the leader of the leftwing CGT trade union, have called for a parliamentary inquiry into reports that Macron had secret undeclared meetings with Uber when he was economy minister from 2014 to 2016 and that he had told Uber 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 mark the building of a new semiconductor factory in Crolles, Macron was questioned by a journalist from Le Monde over having met Uber officials between 2014 and 2016.
“I was a minister and I did my job,” he said. “We’ve seen too much of a kind of atmosphere where meeting business heads, particularly when they are foreign, 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’m very proud of that, and you know what, I’d do it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. ”
He said he was announcing new investment and the promise of 1,500 new jobs in Crolles precisely because he had similarly “several months ago, and in a confidential way – because we have to preserve the secrets of companies – met the head of GlobalFoundries, who is here today ”.
Macron said that as president, he had been the most outspoken global leader on regulating internet giants. “When I became president, we regulated the sector unsparingly. We are the first country who regulated online platforms, and after that, we pushed it at European level. So I’m extremely proud. ”
He told journalists: “You know what, here’s a scoop: it’s very difficult to create jobs without businesses and entrepreneurs. So I will continue to meet businesses and entrepreneurs to convince them to invest in our country and I’ll do everything I can to open up sectors where activity is blocked, in order to create jobs. Because every young person who has had a job opportunity thanks to that, I’m pleased about. ”
Asked why he was nonetheless facing strong criticism over his Uber dealings from the leftwing opposition coalition, Nupes, in parliament, he said “because they’ve lost their compass”. He added: “When you believe in social justice and equal opportunities, you have to fight for young people from difficult areas to find jobs. That has never been their fight. But it has been mine. ”
He added: “If we don’t fight for education, training and the creation of innovation – in other words economic opportunities – we’ll still have unemployment. And our unemployment, even if it has dropped in the past 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’s why he was fighting for full employment.
At the first question session in the new French parliament on Tuesday, Danielle Simonnet from the hard-left party, France Unbowed, demanded a parliamentary inquiry and criticized Macron, as “a minister who served the interests of an American platform against the view of government 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 presidential campaign in 2016-2017.
The junior minister, Olivia Grégoire, replied 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 the economy today, at the heart of the economy of the 21st century, and it’s a reality – whatever you think on the issue – that that’s where growth and jobs are. ”
Grégoire added: “Who pushed for the regulation of digital giants in Europe? France. Who pushed the need to not abuse personal data? France. Who is the country that first proposed taxing 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 every measure to encourage the arrival but also the protection of consumers. ”