France’s Macron heads to Brazilian Amazon in three-day trip to restore ties

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday kicks off a visit to Brazil in the Amazon city of Belem, the host of 2025 UN climate talks, where he and Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will seek to reset frayed ties.

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Macron is the first French president to visit Brazil in 11 years and he is seeking a fresh start after spats with former president Jair Bolsonaro over environmental destruction and insults directed at his wife, Brigitte.

France, the seventh largest economy in the world, and Brazil, the ninth largest, are considered key players in a geopolitical scene marked by rivalry between China and the United States. 

Paris sees Brasilia as a bridge to large emerging economies whose voices Brazil is trying to amplify through its presidency of the G20, and membership of the BRICS+ group. 

“We are living in a Franco-Brazilian moment,” said the Elysee presidential palace, highlighting “many points of convergence” with Lula, particularly on “major global issues.”

“France is an essential, unavoidable actor for Brazilian foreign policy,” said the head of Brazilian diplomacy for Europe, Maria Luisa Escorel de Moraes. 

Amazon chief to be honored 

Lula and Macron will meet in Belem in northern Brazil, which in 2025 will host the COP30 climate talks.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon halved in 2023 after soaring under Bolsonaro, as Lula’s government stepped up environmental policing.

The world’s largest tropical forest plays a key role in the fight against climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide emissions.

In Belem, Macron will award tribal chief Raoni Metuktire with the Legion of Honor, the highest French distinction, for his role as an “international figure in the fight for the preservation of the Amazon rainforest and the culture of indigenous peoples,” according to the French presidency. 

Metuktire left his home in the Amazon over 30 years ago to travel the world with his warning of the threats posed by the destruction of the rainforest.

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A striking figure with his large wooden lip plate and yellow feather headdress, he has taken his message to popes, royals and presidents, with his stature as an environmental campaigner rising with growing awareness of the climate emergency.

Mercosur and Ukraine

France and Brazil are working together to manufacture four conventionally powered submarines, the third of which will be launched on Wednesday by both leaders at the Itaguai naval base, near Rio de Janeiro. 

Brasilia could also call on Paris to help it develop nuclear propulsion on a fifth submarine. 

Then there are the more sticky topics, such as the long-stalled free trade agreement between the European Union and South America’s Mercosur bloc, which has recently run into fierce resistance from European farmers.

Macron said in January that France opposes the deal because it “doesn’t make Mercosur farmers and companies abide by the same rules as ours.”

While Lula is expected to reiterate his call for the rapid signing of the deal, both Paris and Brasilia have indicated the two-decade old negotiations would not be a major focus of Macron’s trip.

The war in Ukraine, which Macron wants to be a key focus of the G20, is another point of contention.

Lula, who has positioned himself as a champion of the “global South”,  has insisted that Kyiv and Moscow share responsibility over the conflict and has refused to take a stand against Russia.

(AFP)

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