Emmanuel Macron in Brazil: Amazon funding, submarines and scientific research

By March 29, 2024

São Paulo, Brazil – Brazil bid adieu to French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday as his three-day visit — his first to the South American country — ended. Alongside his counterpart, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the two countries signed more than 20 cooperation agreements in areas such as the environment, artificial intelligence (AI), human rights, and gender equality.

Macron began his trip to Brazil on Tuesday in Belém, the northern city known as the gateway to the Amazon, which was handpicked by the United Nations to host the COP 30 climate summit in 2025. Met by Lula, the two traveled to Combu Island, where the French president took part in his first official engagement: a meeting with local indigenous leaders.

Presidents Lula and Macron on a boat trip to Combu Island
(Ricardo Stuckert / Presidency of Brazil, courtesy)

Among the delegates was Chief Raoni Metuktire, the leader of Brazil’s Kayapo Indigenous people and a global symbol in the fight for rainforest preservation and Indigenous rights. Macron bestowed Raoni, 92, with his nation’s highest military and civilian award, the Legion of Honor. The medal was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 in recognition of merits in these areas and is the most prestigious honor awarded by the French government.

“Dear Raoni, this moment is dedicated to you. You went to France several times and I committed myself to coming here to your forest, to be with you,” said Macron. “This forest, which is so coveted, but which you have always fought to defend for decades. Today, President Lula and I are making common cause with one of our friends.”

Despite his age, Raoni continues to exude impressive vigor in his fight for the well-being of his people and to this day maintains dialogue with various world leaders, such as Pope Francis, Britain’s King Charles III, and Macron.

Policy to protect the Amazon

In addition to the tribute to the Indigenous leader, Macron’s sojourn in the Amazon resulted in some tangible policy, including the announcement of a €1 billion public-private investment program into the bio-economies of the Brazilian and French Guianan Amazon.

The initiative will establish a scientific agreement that will develop sustainable research projects, research for investment into the region, and technology-sharing essential to the bioeconomy of the region.

Commenting on the partnership, President Lula recalled his government’s goal of completely ending deforestation in the Amazon by 2030.

“We are committed to achieving zero deforestation in the Amazon by 2030. No one asked for this, no convention. We’re the ones who decided that we’re going to take the fight against deforestation as a profession of faith,” said Lula.

Submarines and research laboratories

On his second day in Brazil, Macron traveled to Itaguaí, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, to take part in the launch of a third submarine resulting from a strategic partnership between Brazil and France. Over 71 meters long and weighing 1,870 tons, the Tonelero submarine was built entirely in the Brazilian shipyard thanks to technology received from the French.

From Rio de Janeiro, Macron left for São Paulo, where he attended the Brazil-France Economic Forum alongside Brazilian Vice-President Geraldo Alckmin. Around 50 French businessmen attended the event.

Around 860 French companies operate in Brazil, generating more than 500,000 jobs. In 2023, the countries recorded a trade flow of USD $8.4 billion, with $2.9 billion in exports from Brazil to France and $5.5 billion in French products imported by Brazil.

President Macron speaks at the Brazil-France Economic Forum, in São Paulo
(Paulo Pinto / Agência Brasil, courtesy)

During his time in the city, Macron also visited the University of São Paulo (USP) to inaugurate the São Paulo branch of the Institut Pasteur. The institute comprises 17 laboratories, a bioinformatics unit, and several multi-use laboratories.

When it reaches full operating capacity, the site is expected to house more than 80 scientists from Brazil and other countries, who will conduct research into various disease classes. Last year, the University of São Paulo was voted the best higher education institution in Latin America and the Caribbean by the QS World University Rankings of the British research company Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

Macron concluded his state visit in the country’s capital, Brasília where he toured various prominent landmarks and also reunited with Lula.

Recalling the country’s January 8, 2023 attacks on government headquarters by supporters of defeated former President Jair Bolsonaro, Macron said of Lula that he restored democracy in Brazil.

“My entire entourage and I personally feel immensely honored to be here with you today, here, in this place, in this Plaza of the Three Powers, which has been attacked, practically destroyed, or at least treated very badly by the enemies of democracy,” said Macron. “The way in which Lula has managed to restore the balance of democracy and carry out this international debate means a great deal to us.”