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French Tech Policy and Its Contradictions

When President Emmanuel Macron forced out Isabelle de Silva, the Head of the French Competition Authority, the news looked surprising.

De Silva led the efforts by one of the world’s most aggressive antitrust agencies against large US tech companies. Beyond firing a salvo of fines against the demonized Silicon Valley’s superstar firms, her influential support for the European Commission’s Digital Markets Act legitimized a piece of legislation narrowly targeting US tech platforms. With such a record, she looked well-placed to receive a second term from President Emmanuel Macron, given the French President’s commitment to fighting US tech giants.

And yet, as Aurelien Portuese writes in a commentary piece for the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), there is something even more important in French economic policy than anti-American techlash: a national industrial policy dedicated to nurturing “national champions.” French tech policy wants to scale down US tech companies in the vain hope of scaling up French tech companies, a misunderstanding that what hurts US tech companies hurts not only French consumers but also French tech entrepreneurs. French policymakers love domestic corporate bigness but despise foreign corporate bigness.

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