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These numbers are, however, disputed by the tech giants, which have criticised the tax as a "populist and flawed proposal".

The initial tax of 3 percent would be applied on revenues "created from activities where users play a major role in value creation and which are the hardest to capture with current tax rules", the Commission said.

The interim tax would apply to companies with "total annual worldwide revenues of 750 million euros ($922 million) and European Union revenues of 50 million euros ($61.5 million.)" Apple, is well over both of those numbers.

The newly proposed tax would impose a 3 percent rate on parts of their online revenue, in what is seen as a significant departure from how taxes are normally collected.

If the White House does hit EU producers, counter-measures could include European tariffs on American goods - although Brussels says it wants to avert a trade war.

"Our pre-Internet rules do not allow our Member States to tax digital companies operating in Europe when they have little or no physical presence here. We need to urgently bring our tax rules into the 21st century by putting in place a new comprehensive and future-proof solution", said commission vice president Valdis Dombrovskis.

The Commission also said it would take the tax burden off traditional firms who now pay 23% in tax on average, compared to just 9.5% for digital multinations. These criteria would seem to apply to Apple in most, if not all, European Union member states. Pierre Moscovici, the Commission's top economy official, said he hoped the rules would be approved before the end of 2018.

The EU was already cooperating with the United States on efforts to tackle trade practices, notably in China, which encouraged overcapacity of steel and aluminum, Malmstrom said, and this was one of the sectors raised by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for discussion. Its scope covers companies offering services such as advertising or the sale of user data.

The importance of the tech companies have got into the limelight in the recent days when it was revealed that in association with the political data firm, the 2016 Presidential campaign of Trump was able to access the personal information of the various Facebook users.

"This is neither a GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) attack nor an anti-U.S. attack proposal that will target any company or any country", he told a news conference.

The industry group cited "rising rhetoric targeting U.S. companies and clear statements of intent to raise revenue from US-based firms".

Its European vice president, Christian Borggreen, said: "We encourage the EU to seek worldwide tax reform through the OECD rather than pursuing discriminatory, unilateral actions with risks to Europe's digital economy and global trade relations".

The European Union's trade chief is unsure what Washington wants in return for a permanent EU exemption from steel tariffs but she warned on Friday that she would resist pressure to cut EU duties on US cars.