As France gradually defines, as the masks finally fall and economic life resumes its course, an intense debate ensues in the rafters of the National Assembly, mobilizing the main lobbying firms of the place. The parliamentarians are discussing the Climate Act and in particular Article 52 that is attracting all the attention. The idea, born of the climate convention, is to limit the possibilities to 10,000 square meters to make floors for all large commercial surfaces. All? Not quite.
The government has always been opposed to e-commerce and its gigantic warehouses that fall within this new, highly restrictive framework. Ikea, Lidl, Carrefour or shopping centers will have to show their ID before building a warehouse, on the other hand Amazon or CDiscount can go there without shame. This debate raises the question of what the status of e-commerce is. Is Amazon a retailer like any other? How can we imagine small independent businesses surviving e-commerce giants when the latter are exempt from the rules imposed on others.
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The LREM Doctrine
All groups are against the idea of creating a separate regime for e-commerce. From LFI to LR, via the PS or EELV, there is no question of creating an Amazon exception. All parties except LREM. A small group of deputies from the presidential majority tried to get in the way of party doctrine. 54 LREM deputies had even gone so far as to table an amendment requiring e-commerce warehouses to have a commercial license and a moratorium on installation, bringing them into common commercial law.
But these reckless deputies, including Pacôme Rupin, Danièle Cazarian, Valérie Oppelt, Jean-Charles Colas-Roy, Thomas Rudigoz or even the former Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Travert, turned around. “We were told not to touch Amazon, that it was the red line not to cross,” challenges a deputy. Despite the Senate’s opposition, the situation should therefore not change much, as the Assembly, under government pressure, will restore its own balance of the text during the Joint Joint Commission in July. This summer, the presidential majority will therefore create another exception for e-commerce.
Amazon destroys jobs
However, the government had arranged for a report to be drawn up before this parliamentary debate by the very serious Strategy France study group, linked to the Prime Minister and the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF). No fewer than seven ministers commissioned this investigation. The idea? Finally, clearly see the effects on jobs, taxes, the climate of e-commerce in general and on Amazon in particular, and make recommendations. The goal: to accelerate the implementation of e-commerce warehouse projects to materialize “the message of attractiveness that the president of the republic has sent to e-commerce players”.
However, this is not quite the direction this research will take. After five months of work, the conclusions of France Strategy and the IGF are clear: “the stronger online trade in a sector, the greater the drop in employment.” A theory shared by two US studies, that of UBS, which expects 75,000 stores to close by 2026, and that of Allianz and Heuler Hermes, which estimate net job losses in the US at 670,000 between 2008 and 2020. France Strategy also concludes that there is a real risk of Amazon taking a position in France and therefore calls for an immediate budgetary and regulatory rebalancing “on the occasion in particular of the French Presidency of the European Union in 2022”.
When does the government want to bury the report?
Shamed by this report, the government is playing dead. But on March 8, Deputy Matthieu Orphelin is told that France Strategy’s report has been sent back to Bercy for 15 days, who is squarely opposed to its publication. He writes to Jean Castex to expose and publicize this form of censorship. In the process the site context the entire report leaked.
But not enough to shake the government and its majority. Amazon recruits no less than 2,000 employees a year, in areas sometimes heavily affected by deindustrialization and relocations (in October 2017, Emmanuel Macron opened Amazon’s logistics center in Boves, in the Somme, a few miles from the former Whirlpool site which was moved to Poland during the last presidential campaign). Moreover, it often concerns low-skilled jobs. It doesn’t matter if Amazon recruits fewer than large retailers and destroys local jobs, the short-term benefit is immediate.
It is MP Mounir Mahjoubi, former Secretary of State for Digital, who best summarizes the macronist doctrine on Amazon. “We are in a transition phase, it is too early to tax e-commerce, which is still in the development and investment phase and is rarely profitable, unlike mass distribution, which is a hyper-mature and profitable business” , explains Mounir Mahjoubi, the first of the LREM majority to denounce in reports the danger of an all-powerful Amazon. The question is not whether we will tax e-commerce, but when,” replies the former secretary of state, who does not want to commit to any timetable.
Priority issue of constitutionality
A speech that has not yet convinced the Confederation of Merchants of France and the National Council of Shopping Centers, who, together with the NGO Friends of the Earth, have filed a priority constitutionality issue over unequal treatment before the law. If the Council of State finds the reason admissible, it will put to the Constitutional Council the question that could decide this summer on this burning issue and ultimately answer this question: is e-commerce a profession like any other? Meanwhile, from June 21, Amazon is preparing to launch its Prime Day operation for three days with unbeatable offers on nearly 2 million offers. Pre-sale before the official sale that doesn’t start until June 30. Another provocation from the American giant that has sparked the ire of traders demanding equal treatment. A topic to be invited into the presidential campaign.