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Macron wants to make France gateway to Europe for tech firms

Speaking partly in English in front of CEOs and other industry leaders, the French president said his labour policy changes have boosted investment.

French President Emmanuel Macron called on tech leaders Thursday to invest in France, saying his innovation policies aim to make the country the gateway to Europe.

Speaking partly in English in front of CEOs and other tech industry leaders, Mr Macron said “it’s because France is changing like crazy that we can say that France is back and you could choose France.”

He said his labour policy changes have boosted investment in the country over the past year.

The changes, notably aimed at giving employers more flexibility to hire and fire, have prompted a series of strikes and protests against what unions see as weakening workers’ rights.

It's because France is changing like crazy that we can say that France is back and you could choose France French President Emmanuel Macron

The speech at the Vivatech trade show in Paris came a day after he met Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, IBM and other CEOs to discuss personal data protection and taxes, among other issues.

The French president pushed for tougher EU regulations and a European digital tax, saying: “Those who innovate in France, they pay taxes… We are decreasing these taxes. Fine. But it’s not fair when somebody else pays no tax.”

Privacy was another issue Mr Macron raised as a tough new European data protection law comes into effect this week.

The so-called GDPR regulation will give Europeans more control over what companies can do with what they post, search and click.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on Thursday that “with GDPR, we will now have to operate recognizing that privacy is a human right”.

Microsoft said this week it would apply European data rights to all its clients worldwide.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, also speaking at the conference, said GDPR means adding some controls, but he insisted it is “not a massive departure” from what Facebook does.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes a selfie with Tony Elumelu, United Bank of Africa chairman (Charles Platiau/AP)

At a hearing on Tuesday in the European Parliament in Brussels, Mr Zuckerberg acknowledged a “mistake” and apologised for the way the social network has been used to produce fake news and interfere in elections.

In response to a question Thursday, Mr Zuckerberg said he had not foreseen the “huge” responsibility Facebook faces today when he was building the company “as a college service”.

“We need to do a more proactive job,” he said, citing taking down “inappropriate content” linked to everything from extremism to bullying.

Facebook has tools “that can now take down proactively thousands and thousands of fake accounts that might be trying to spread misinformation,” he said.

Mr Zuckerberg said the company also has taken steps to make political ads “much more transparent”, adding: “There’s a lot more that we need to do here, but we’re really focused on this.”

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