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Facebook, Uber Execs Top Guest List for Macron's Tech Huddle

EconomyMay 16, 2018 21:08
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© Bloomberg. The Google Inc. logo hangs illuminated at the company's exhibition stand at the Dmexco digital marketing conference in Cologne, Germany.

(Bloomberg) -- Tech should do good. And Emmanuel Macron, though busy with climate change, Europe, Iran, reforming the French economy and trade tensions with the U.S., will see to it.

France’s president wants to become the go-to head of state for global tech and will host the bosses of Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc.’s Google to Uber in Paris next week to talk about social responsibility, eyeing an opening as the industry’s relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump proves complicated.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is also on the guest list, according to the French presidency.

Macron, France’s youngest president at 40, will meet with chiefs of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), IBM (NYSE:IBM), Uber and others in Paris on May 23 at the Elysee presidential palace. And expects the likes of Satya Nadella and Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt to make proposals on how the tech sector can have a positive impact on consumers and society, on matters like privacy, artificial intelligence and robots in the workplace.

Soul Searching

If anything, Macron is good at seizing the moment: after years of disrupting established industries and testing the limits of rule-breaking, companies like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Uber are now doing some intense soul searching, prompted by scandals about data privacy, sexual harassment and fake news influencing elections.

Further, Trump’s track record with the technology sector has been mixed -- from fluctuating declarations on Chinese suppliers to singling out U.S. players like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) in tweets. France meanwhile has attempted a balancing act that includes a tougher stance on taxes and privacy while applauding local investments such as Samsung’s in artificial intelligence labs.

Tech For Good

About 50 people will join to debate education, the future of work, as well as gender equality and diversity, Maurice Levy, chairman of the supervisory board at Publicis and co-organizer of the event, told reporters at a briefing Wednesday. The huddle, dubbed “Tech for good," will take place the day before Macron, as well as many of the executives, attend the Viva Technology industry conference in Paris.

By trying to get the industry to volunteer for more responsibilities and accountability, the French president is feeding into a habit of trying to crack complicated relationships. With mixed results: Macron becoming one of the few European leaders to develop a strong relationship with Trump didn’t stop the U.S. from pulling out of the Iran nuclear accord.

Over a lunch and one-on-one meetings, Macron wants to make a point: companies with global outreach and sizes should be treated like any country, with comparable responsibilities, according to two advisers to the president who briefed reporters ahead of the meeting. France wants to engage executives in a conversation over behavior considered as predatory, as well as lure investments, the aides said.

Zuckerberg One-on-one

Zuckerberg will get a bilateral meeting with Macron, the aides said. Macron will ask the Facebook CEO about privacy, content moderation and hate speech. Facebook representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

That meeting --Zuckerberg’s first with a head of state since the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal-- will be one of several stops in a European tour for the social media CEO, including at the European Commission, the aides said.

Facebook founder "has accepted our invitation and will be in Brussels as soon as possible, hopefully already next week," European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said Wednesday in a statement posted to Twitter.

Macron’s guests also include CEOs and executives of Samsung (KS:005930), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Palantir and French companies from bank BNP Paribas (PA:BNPP) to defense supplier Thales and pharmaceutical giant Sanofi (PA:SASY). Microsoft, IBM and Uber will get one-on-ones, the French presidency said.

(Updates with details in 3rd graph.)

Facebook, Uber Execs Top Guest List for Macron's Tech Huddle

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