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The presidents of France and Brazil meet and announce a $1.1 billion investment plan for the Amazon

By MAURICIO SAVARESE and SYLVIE CORBET, MAURICIO SAVARESE and SYLVIE CORBET, Associated Press
Published: March 27, 2024, 7:58am

SAO PAULO (AP) — The Brazilian and the French presidents on Tuesday announced a plan to invest 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in the Amazon, including parts of the rainforest in neighboring French Guiana.

The two countries’ governments said in a joint statement the money will be spread over the next four years to protect the rainforest. It will be a collaboration of state-run Brazilian banks and France’s investment agency. Private resources will also be welcomed, Brazil and France said.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are meeting this week to revive the relationship between the countries after years of frictions with former President Jair Bolsonaro, deepen cooperation to protect the rainforest and boost trade.

Macron started his three-day visit to Brazil in the Amazon city of Belem, where he met his long-time ally Lula. The French president then took a boat to the Combu island to meet with Indigenous leaders.

Both Macron and Lula saw a protest by Greenpeace Brazil with banners that read “No oil in the Amazon.” Brazil’s government has contemplated allowing the tapping of oil in a region close to the Para state, where Belem lies.

Lula said during a speech that Macron’s visit is part of a global effort to beef up rainforest protections.

“We want to convince those who have already deforested that they need to contribute in an important way to countries that still have their forests to keep them standing,” Lula said in a speech next to the French president.

Macron’s office prior said to the trip that a potential European trade deal with the South American bloc Mercosur won’t be on the agenda. The French president is an opponent of such an agreement as long as South American producers don’t respect the same environment and health standards as Europeans, after farmers raised concerns during protests across France and Europe.

The French president decorated Indigenous leader Raoni Metuktire with the prestigious Legion of Honor medal for efforts at conserving the rainforest.

“You were in Europe and I promised to come here to your forest and be with your people in this forest that is coveted,” Macron told the Indigenous leader, according to French radio RFI. “President Lula and I have a common cause for one of our friends in this land that belongs to you.”

Lula and Macron will seek to “set a common course” to fight both climate change and poverty, Macron’s office said, as Brazil is to host the summit of the Group of 20 leading economies in Rio de Janeiro in November and UN climate talks in Belem next year.

On Wednesday, Macron and Lula will launch a diesel-powered submarine built in Brazil with French technology at the Itaguai shipyard outside Rio de Janeiro. The French president will then head to metropolis Sao Paulo to meet with Brazilian investors. On Thursday, the French president will head to Brasilia to again meet with Lula.

Corbet reported from Paris.

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