In 2020, Paris will undergo a municipal change. In an effort to win re-election, the current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has made a name for herself on public issues such as transportation and housing, such as her continued push for “car-free” in Paris, calls for improved congestion-free subway systems, and a referendum on whether to limit the sharing of accommodation platform Airbnb.
Hidalgo recently published an open letter in Le Monde, targeting e-commerce platforms such as Amazon. E-commerces such as Amazon and UberEats, she argues, “create social unrest, congestion and pollution” and need to take responsibility for social problems and ecological disasters, such as paying a “express tax”.
According to statistics, Amazon’s daily express delivery in Paris is about 250,000, and during the Black Friday boom, parcels will surge tenfold. These busy express delivery vehicles are thought to have exacerbated congestion and air pollution in the Paris metropolitan area.
Protests against Amazon have taken place in France around the time of the “Black Five” in France. On November 26th, local time, the environmental group Friends of the Earth blocked an Amazon warehouse south of Paris, blocking roads using haystacks and used refrigerators and microwave ovens. Another social group, Attac, protested outside another Amazon distribution center in Paris, saying Amazon needed to “stop expanding and stop overproduction”. On November 29th dozens of protesters sat outside the Amazon headquarters in Paris, holding signs that read “Say no to Amazon and its world,” according to Reuters.
Protest groups such as Attac, Friends of the Earth and the trade union Solidaire have also released a joint report detailing the economic and environmental problems posed by Amazon. Amazon’s profits in France, 57 percent, do not pay taxes, the report said. Globally, it emits more greenhouse gases than Portugal’s entire country’s annual carbon emissions. On top of that, Amazon has squeezed other small owners, reporting that “on average, Amazon creates one job and puts two people out of work.”
Amazon responded to the report by saying it “contains multiple factual errors and baseless inferences.” Amazon said it had created 9,300 jobs in Paris by the end of 2019 and stressed that it had purchased 100,000 electric courier shipping vehicles and would launch them into the global market with the goal of achieving a carbon balance by 2030.
According to CityLab contributor Feargus O’Sullivan, Amazon is still lagging behind on ecological issues than the more active companies in France. France Post, for example, has begun using electric postal vehicles for the “last mile” delivery. France Post has pledged to achieve a carbon balance within Greater Paris by 2024.
Hidalgo envisions a plot of land in central Paris and a cap on the number of packages delivered here, with sellers charging extra fees to push the e-commerce platform through costs. But if Amazon or other e-commerce platforms decide to pass on the cost to consumers, the rule may be a sham.
What does political pressure mean for retail giants like Amazon? After all, Hidalgo’s jurisdiction covers only 2.2m people in the heart of Paris, and paris’ restrictions may not be a direct blow to Amazon’s vast global market.
But it’s also worth noting that this is also related to the EU’s “digital tax” on “GAFA” (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon). Amazon, for example, saw revenues in the UK in 2017 at 1.98 billion pounds, a threefold increase from the previous year, but the amount of tax paid fell by almost 40 per cent to 4.56 million pounds, down from ?7.4 million in 2016. GAFA companies often transfer profits from major markets such as Britain, France and Germany to “tax depressions” such as Ireland and Luxembourg through “transfer pricing”.
France is the EU’s “main force” in pushing for a digital tax on GAFA, which in mid-July 2019 passed a service tax law for GAFA companies. The U.S. recently proposed tariffs of up to 100 percent on some French goods, and According to a CNN report on December 3rd, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the European Union would retaliate “strongly” against U.S. sanctions.