U.S. Tech Group Backs Macron’s Presidential Bid in France

A major American tech industry group is endorsing French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron — though it doesn’t agree with him on every issue.

The Consumer Technology Association threw its support behind Macron after the independent centrist topped the field Sunday with 23.9 percent of the vote. Macron, leader of the newly formed “En Marche!” party, advances to the May 7 runoff against National Front firebrand Marine Le Pen, who earned 21.4 percent.

Macron has ties to both the business and tech worlds. He’s a former investment banker who served as minister of economy, industry and digital affairs from 2014 to 2016. The CTA likes Macron’s business-friendly policies and openness to immigration.

Macron’s victory in the first round signaled a “vote for innovation and economic growth over protectionism and nativism,” CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro said in a Monday statement. “With this election, France is closer to seizing the opportunity to advance its commitment to technology and innovation and all the benefits that will deliver.”

Le Pen, whom The Associated Press reported today is stepping down as the leader of the far-right party her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, established in the 1970s, has criticized the open flow of immigration to France. She said last week that she would suspend all legal immigration to the country if elected president, according to the BBC. Macron, in contrast, has pledged to take in innovators and scientists while maintaining a more open borders approach, Reuters reported in February.

Le Pen’s success has been linked to the rise of populism, reflected in the election of President Donald Trump in the United States and the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union.

“Macron embraces the politics of hope over fear and recognizes that trade and immigration are key aspects of a modern economy,” Shapiro said, adding that Macron’s record as minister under France President François Hollande “proves his passion for and success in promoting tech industry growth and the jobs our sector creates.” Shapiro cited Macron’s support for “new business models and investment in innovation.”

The CTA represents over 2,000 tech firms including giants such as Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., all of which conduct business in France and are vulnerable to the country’s regulatory and legal policies.

Macron visited the CTA’s massive annual exhibition of technology devices and policy panels in Las Vegas in 2015 and 2016.

Macron’s platform includes establishing a fund of 10 billion euros for innovation and building an industry of the future. He also has an entire platform dedicated to the digital economy, including a proposal that would require network operators to provide 4G connection all over the country, and improve coverage by doubling the number of mobile antennas.

But the CTA and Macron are not on the same page with everything — particularly Macron’s recent call for compelling tech companies to give law enforcement access to encrypted messages in terror investigations. In an April 10 speech, Macron said it is “not acceptable” that tech companies refuse to give law enforcement access to encrypted messages or provide a key to their encrypted systems because they had guaranteed their customers their communications would be protected. If tech companies “persist” in their position, they must accept they are “accomplices” to attacks, Macron said.

When a draft of legislation that would require tech firms to provide access to encrypted data to law enforcement surfaced in the U.S. Senate last year, Shapiro condemned the policy as an “overbroad overreaction.”

The CTA did not respond to request for comment on Macron’s position on encryption.

Macron appears to have the upper hand heading into the runoff. Bloomberg News reported that an OpinionWay poll released Monday showed Macron winning the election runoff with a projected 61 percent of the vote.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect Marine Le Pen’s announcement that she is temporarily stepping down as National Front’s party leader.

Morning Consult