Brazil And France’s Nuclear Wedding

Macron rekindles France-Brazil relationship in widely memed Lula visit

Paris aims to control the Amazon region under the guise of environment protection. And that is not all.

On March 26, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Brazil. After the aggressive rhetoric concerning the possibility of sending French troops to Ukraine, and loss of influence in a number of African countries (Senegal, where the presidential election finished not long before, is the last on the list so far), that visit was not just routine, but can be seen as testing the waters for shifting the area of the French presence. Attempts to force Russian interests out, at least in the areas where they can serve as a genuine competitor to Paris, cannot be ruled out.

Although that was a high level state visit, the real uproar was caused by the pictures of the two Presidents that have instantly become memes. On them, Lula and Macron were holding hands and smiling, so one Brazilian paper called them “a wedding”. The picture of Macron with a Native shaman really did look like a gay wedding in an Anglican church. Macron also awarded the Native leader, Raoni, with a medal for “protecting the environment”. The French President countered the memes saying, “Yes, it was a wedding. Brazil loves France. And France loves Brazil.”

Meanwhile, the real situation is much less rosy than it looks in the pictures. Felipe Barros, a Brazilian MP, for instance, submitted an official inquiry concerning the agreements signed with France, and if they violate the country’s sovereignty.

In French Guiana, visited by Macron a day before, some officials also protested actions taken by their own and the French Presidents. Two of the country’s MPs, Davy Rimane and Jean-Victor Castor, came up with a statement where they emphasized that issues like that should be discussed out in the open, not behind closed doors, and condemning “the sectarian policies of the head of the state: the published programs differed radically from one guest to another while the government reserved the right to invite only one MP, or only the other, offering them completely different sets of issues to consider.”

As for the issues at hand, they were all centered around Amazonia, the region famously rich with bio-resources. The presentation was vaguely virtue-signaling, advocating the environment protection and the fight against the climate change.

On March 26, Lula and Macron made a joint declaration and signed a roadmap concerning bio-economy and protection of tropical rainforests. Although the agreement contains a lot of platitudes concerning the need to cut down emissions and stay committed to the prior treaties, there are some provisions there that have to do with Brazil directly.

“Brazil and France are committed to the fight against deforestation, and acknowledge the importance of the Amazon and other biomes. In that context, the Presidents expressed their commitment to preserving, restoring, and sustainably managing the planet’s rainforests, and agreed to continue working on their ambitious agenda, including through the France-Brazil bio-economy and rainforest protection roadmap, especially with a view to develop innovative financial instruments, market mechanisms and environmental service payments that would uphold marshalling the amount of resources required to solve the deforestation problem by 2030.”

That provision starts with the Amazonian rainforests, but ends with all rainforests on Earth and some payment instruments that are supposed to be developed.

The matter is detailed further in the agreement, “Brazil and France are determined to work together and with their respective partners on creating a new governance system for the international finance architecture in order to support more effective financing of the fight against poverty and the protection of the planet: the two essential conditions for the fair environmental transition. That change that underpins the Paris Agreement should enable us to mobilize public and private financial resources on an unprecedented scale and at an unprecedented rate, as well as reform international financial institutions in a fair way.”

While Brazil is a BRICS member with a moderate position about developing alternative solutions of any sort, especially when it comes to the Global South, France is a part of the collective West that is committed to preserving all tools of its hegemony, including payment and finance systems. So how would France be useful for modernizing and transforming the international finance architecture? Would the part Paris plays in it not be really disruptive and divisive, especially during the year when Russia is the chair of BRICS? Right now, the option to set up an alternative international payment system is being widely discussed.

There is also a provision that says that, “the Presidents acknowledge the importance of a more inclusive climate and sustainable development science with a broader participation of researchers from developing countries, in the light of gender studies and traditional knowledge, as well as the knowledge provided by indigenous and native peoples and communities.”

Macron’s gender interests are not a secret, and while Lula used the LGBT rhetoric solely during his election campaign, in order to secure “progressive” votes, that continuous flirting with gender issues does look suspicious.

The bio-economy and rainforest protection part of the plan is more specific and has to do with the Amazon region. Disregarding the preamble, it deals with an attempt to design a global bio-economy investment plan based on public and private resources. An ambitious bio-economy investment program for Brazil and Guiana Amazon was declared, with the goal to raise 1 billion euros in the next four years.

The program has several key components:

– The dialogue between the French and the Brazilian administrations concerning bio-economy issues;

– Technical and finance partnership between Brazilian publicly-owned banks, including BASA and BNDES, and the French development agency, present in both Brazil and French Guiana;

– Appointing dedicated coordinators for the most innovative French and Brazilian bio-economy companies;

– The new Franco-Brazilian scientific partnership by CIRAD and Embrapa, to set up new research projects in sustainable areas, including in French Guiana;

– Creating a new Center for Bio-Economy Research, Investment and Technology Exchange, in support of the Franco-Brazilian Center for Amazonian Bio-Diversity (CFBBA), and setting up a network for French and Brazilian universities that would contribute to these issues.

Further down, the carbon market creation standards are outlined. They are supposed to incentivize forest countries investing in the natural resources restoration, and joint promotion of innovation partnerships around the world in order to finance tropical rainforest protection and biodiversity.

In general, this is about setting up some testing grounds for certain measures that could be scaled up to other parts of the world.

It is worth remembering that Brazil will chair the COP30 climate summit in 2025. So the moment to promote the environment agenda was well-timed. There is no doubt that Lula’s administration will keep pedaling that issue.

Another really important issue discussed was related to joint nuclear energy projects.

As MP Julio Lopez (a member of the Brazilian delegation) stated, a memorandum of mutual understanding was signed between Serviço Geológico do Brasil (SGB) and France’s Bureau de recherches géologiques et minières (BRGM) concerning uranium surveys. Presently, Brazil’s uranium deposits are the eighth largest in the world: about 280 thousand tons. Their estimated value is about USD 62 billion: enough to cover Brazil’s entire nuclear program. Right now, publicly owned Nuclear Industries do Brasil, related to the country’s Ministry of Mining Industry and Energy, is the natural resources survey monopolist.

Various sections of the agreement indicate that the signatories intend to deepen their nuclear energy cooperation and facilitate information exchange pertaining to important natural resources surveys. There are also provisions on the French investment in natural resources processing in Brazil, as well as in research and development of various innovation technologies.

According to Julio Lopez, reconstruction of Angra 1 nuclear power plant is planned, along with Angra 3 construction, as part of the “nuclear operations restructuring in Brazil”.  The thing is that, late in 2022, Rosatom and Industrias Nucleares do Brasil signed a contract on enriched uranium supplies for Angra 1 fuel assemblies. The contract, signed after an open bidding procedure, will last till 2027. Rosatom also has interest in completing the Angra 3 construction although its commencement and approval in Brazil was fraught with difficulties for a number of reasons. However, in 2022, the Eletronuclear company (Brazil) restarted the NPP foundation construction. Expected to be launched in 2028, Angra 3 generating power will be 1,405 mW, or 12 million mWh annually: enough to supply electricity to 4.5 million people.

Right now, there are talks about Framatome, a French nuclear reactor producer, entering Brazil.

We cannot discount the possibility that France sees Brazil as both a safety net and a new, promising market. If the uranium supplies from Niger are cut (which is quite possible in the current climate), Paris is going to use Brazilian ore to compensate.  And push their own technologies at the same time, lobbying for driving Russian companies out. Corruption schemes, a staple of Western big politics, will likely be used there. The environment agenda is going to be a good cover for both manipulating the assets and survey operations, along with establishing clout at the local community level. Giving a few more medals to the tribal leaders is not a problem for France. Exchanging glass beads for gold is an old trick European colonizers often used in Latin America.

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