France’s president arrived in San Francisco Wednesday for meetings with Silicon Valley and government leaders, just days after a French regulator hit Google with an embarrassing regulatory slap and after years of efforts to wrest more taxes from tech firms.
President Francois Hollande was greeted at City Hall by Mayor Ed Lee, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, as school children waved French and American flags on the stairway of the rotunda.
More than 300 French companies have offices in California, and a large portion of U.S. investments in France are from California, Hollande told the crowd at a City Hall reception in his honor.
“It is here in California that the world of tomorrow is being invented,” Hollande said. “For centuries France has wanted to change the world. Together we can.”
Later in the day, Hollande and members of his cabinet had lunch at a French restaurant with Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt; Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook; and Twitter chairman and co-founder Jack Dorsey.
Hollande points to the U.S. tech industry as an economic success that he hopes to replicate at home. But he’s also been among the leaders of Europe’s fight to prevent what the continent sees as a systematic attempt by tech firms to invade privacy and avoid paying their corporate fair share.
The president also was expected to meet with French entrepreneurs and inaugurate an office in the Dogpatch neighborhood aimed at supporting their efforts to gain a foothold in Silicon Valley.
The French leader visited the region during his three-day state visit to the U.S.
Over the weekend, Google posted a statement on its French website noting that France’s digital privacy watchdog found the search giant in violation of rules on ensuring data privacy.
Hollande’s advisers insist his first priority was to meet leaders of American Internet innovation, even though the president would press France’s principles on issues such as privacy, taxes and hate speech.