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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

36 mins ago - Science

COVID time warp

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a lifetime ago to some, and just yesterday to others. Scientists are beginning to unpack the way people processed the passage of time amidst the stress, uncertainty and isolation of the 1 year, 8 months and 21 days since WHO declared a pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic's global effects on how people experience time could provide new insights into the brain's ability to perceive and predict time — a fundamental feature of life.

Mitt Romney calls Ray Dalio's China investments a "sad moral lapse"

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to a Senate Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Oct. 7. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday criticized billionaire Ray Dalio's investments in China, writing in a tweet that "his feigned ignorance of China's horrific abuses and rationalization of complicit investments there is a sad moral lapse."

Driving the news: Romney's comments come after Dalio's firm, Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, raised $1.3 billion in November for a new private fund in China, Bloomberg reports.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  4. World: Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people — Omicron variant detected in more countriesWHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

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