The French president met with the CEO of Apple in Paris on October 6. Should we see this as a business meeting, or an encounter between two heads of state?
French journalist Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber published The American Challenge in 1967, which went on to be a best-seller both in France and the U.S.A. The writer observed in his work that major American groups at the time, such as IBM, Ford, and Boeing, were more powerful than certain European countries. He concluded that the European Union had to grow stronger and commit to shared projects. Airbus — an airplane manufacturer backed by France, West Germany, and the United Kingdom — was founded in 1970, but there have been few similar endeavors since. The same book could be written and published today, with Emmanuel Macron in the role of Servan-Schreiber, following the French president’s meeting with Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple.
Apple is a global empire that no one on Earth can do without; a monopoly that accompanies us throughout our daily lives, guiding our existence and reading our minds. Just like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, Apple has successfully strangled all other competing platforms. Its users and employees come from all over the world, and have united under a new identity — the “Appleites.”
The Europeans who missed the technology boat don’t have a leg to stand on: Macron wants Apple to finally pay its taxes and contribute to employment growth in France. Apple should announce its imminent arrival at Station F, the business incubator inaugurated in the 13th arrondissement of Paris this summer. But if Apple is asked to pay too much tax, it will turn its nose up at France. Macron and Cook smiled for the cameras after their meeting, and the Élysée confirmed that the dialogue had been “constructive” and that “discussions would continue.” However, Macron won’t get far, and even a united Europe will struggle to get more out of Apple than a simple fine for monopoly abuse.
It is likely there will never be a European equivalent of Apple, and the E.U. member states need to wake up to the new power dynamics with global businesses. European countries should instead focus on what they are good at, and what GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) are not — ensuring the safety and solidarity of citizens — while leaving innovation and production to entrepreneurs. There is nothing to show that getting involved in start-ups — one of Macron’s passions — is a government’s responsibility, nor that it is in any way useful. Regardless of their capacity for innovation, every French startupper dreams of selling their company to Apple or Google.