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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Trump administration said on Wednesday it will investigate a French plan to impose a 3% tax on U.S. tech companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: This move escalates the administration's global trade fight, "stok[ing] tensions with the European Union," per the Times. It is "a step that could lead Washington to impose trade penalties," the Washington Post adds.

The big picture: If the administration pursues this probe into France — a U.S. ally — it will use the same legal mechanism that President Trump used to strike China with trade war tariffs last year.

  • The investigation intends to "...determine whether it is discriminatory or unreasonable and burdens or restricts United States commerce," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement on Wednesday.
  • French senators are scheduled to vote on the tax Thursday. Lighthizer anticipates it will pass.
  • Other countries are also considering implementing new levies on digital services, Bloomberg reports.

Our thought bubble from Axios' technology reporter Ina Fried: How you see this depends largely on where you sit. In France and other places, this feels like a way to derive tax revenue from companies that are making a lot of money off people in their country. For the tech companies, this seems like an added and unique tax aimed at punishing U.S.-based companies

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

2 hours ago - World

Saudi Arabia and Qatar near deal to end standoff, sources say

Qatar's prime minister (R) attends the 2019 Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a deal to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf following U.S.-mediated reconciliation talks this week, sources familiar with the talks tell me.

Why it matters: Restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf after a 3.5 year standoff. It could also notch a last-minute achievement for the Trump administration before Jan. 20.

House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime marijuana legalization advocate and co-sponsor of the bill. Photo: Pete Marovich For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a "landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs," which has disproportionately affected people of color.

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