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France’s Macron under fire over Uber contacts as minister

uber drivers protest in paris
Uber and VTC ('Tourism Vehicles with Driver) protest against the French government favoring taxis, in 2016 after Uber was ordered to pay 1,2 million euro to the French taxi trade union EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

French President Emmanuel Macron came under pressure from opposition politicians over his reported links with ride-hailing company Uber Technologies during his years as economy minister.

The Guardian and Le Monde newspapers reported that Uber Technologies Inc UBER.N broke laws and secretly lobbied politicians as part of an aggressive drive to expand into new markets from 2013 to 2017.

Macron’s office told Le Monde that as economy minister at the time he frequently had contact with many companies disrupting the service industry, and that it was appropriate to facilitate the lifting of red tape.

Headed by the anti-capitalist France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, the left-wing Nupes political alliance said that they would seek a parliamentary investigation into Macron’s role in helping the Californian company in France.

“A minister can’t be a lobbyist! Light needs to be shone on this case. France cannot be the playground of big private companies,” senior France Insoumise lawmaker Alexis Corbiere said on Twitter.

Sebastien Chenu, spokesman for the far-right party Rassemblement National, described Macron as a “lobbyist at the service of foreign private interests, an ideologue of globalisation and deregulation.”

The Guardian reported that while other members of the then-Socialist government had misgivings about Uber‘s push onto taxis’ turf, Macron exchanged text messages with Uber executives, who identified him as a key behind-the-scenes ally.

In response to the Guardian and Le Monde reports, Uber said in a statement: “We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values.”

As minister and now as president, Macron has aggressively courted foreign investment and has long been on a first-name basis with many top executives at multinational companies.

Since his party lost its controlling majority in parliamentary elections last month, Macron and his government have come under increased pressure from opposition parties.

His government faced a no-confidence motion on Monday, although it was not expected to pass as the conservative Les Republicains and the Rassemblement National were planning to abstain.

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