Macron to visit Amazon rainforest with Lula on 3-day Brazil tour

FILE PHOTO: EU-CELAC summit in Brussels

By Lisandra Paraguassu and Elizabeth Pineau

BRASILIA/PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron, who criticized Brazil's previous government for failing to protect the rainforest, will arrive on Tuesday in the Amazon at the start of a three-day visit to the South American country.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will meet Macron in Belem, near the mouth of the Amazon River, where the two will visit conservation parks with sustainable development projects and meet with Indigenous leaders.

"Lula wants to show Macron the complexity of the Amazon, which is not just a vast rainforest but also a place where 25 million people live," Brazil's top diplomat for Europe and North America, Maria Luisa Escorel, told reporters on Friday.

She said the French government intends to fund sustainable development and programs to stop deforestation in the Amazon.

Lula and Macron will discuss a common course to fight both climate change and poverty as Brazil prepares to host the G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro in November and United Nations climate talks in Belem next year, both of which the French president will attend, the Elysée said in a briefing.

A stalled trade agreement between the European Union and the South American common market Mercosur will not be on their agenda because it is not a bilateral matter, Brazilian and French officials said.

Macron, who faces pressure from French farmers to kill the deal, has said he opposes the agreement that has been under negotiation for two decades.

Brazil, in turn, is unhappy with EU legislation passed last year barring imports of coffee, beef, soy and other commodities if they are linked to recent deforestation, which Brazilian farmers consider a protectionist offensive.

Despite those issues, relations between France and Brazil have recovered from a low point in 2019 when Macron led a wave of international pressure on then-President Jair Bolsonaro over fires raging in the Amazon. Bolsonaro accused Macron and other G7 countries of treating Brazil like "a colony".

"After a four-year eclipse and a virtual freeze in political relations between our two countries during Bolsonaro's presidency, we are in the process of relaunching the bilateral relationship and the strategic partnership with Brazil," a French presidential adviser said.

On Wednesday, at the Itaguai shipyard outside Rio, Macron and Lula will launch the third Scorpene-class diesel-powered submarine built in Brazil with French technology, part of a $10 billion program that will build Brazil's first nuclear-powered submarine at the end of the decade.

The program is a partnership with France's state-run Naval Group in which the Thales defense group has a 35% stake.

Macron will meet business executives in Sao Paulo on Wednesday afternoon and make a state visit to Brasilia on Thursday, meeting again with Lula and the head of the Senate.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia and Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes and Estelle Shirbon)