Brazil: arms deal signed with France

French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed a $12 billion strategic partnership agreement in Rio de Janeiro on Dec. 23, the second day of Sarkozy’s official visit to Brazil. The two presidents also finalized nearly a dozen other agreements, covering space, nuclear energy, climate change, biodiversity, professional training and scientific and cultural cooperation. Sarkozy currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-member European Union (EU), and his visit included the renewal on Dec. 22 of a strategic partnership agreement between Brazil and the EU. After the two-day official visit, Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, were planning a vacation at a Brazilian resort.

The strategic partnership agreement includes building four diesel Scorpene submarines and the development of a nuclear-powered submarine; the submarine sales are reportedly worth as much as $6.7 billion euros (about $9 billion). Part of the first diesel submarine is to be built in Cherbourg, France, but the work will be completed in a new facility in Sepetiba, west of Rio de Janeiro, along with the other diesel vessels. The first Scorpene is scheduled to be finished in 2016, with the nuclear submarine due in 2024. France will also aid in the manufacture of 50 EC-725 transport helicopters in Brazil by the Helibras company; the helicopter deal, reportedly worth 1.899 billion euros (some $2.64 billion), includes technology transfer from France.

Lula, a leader of the leftist Workers Party, insisted that Brazil’s goal was to have “military capability, not meaning to attack anyone, but to defend oneself.” The agreement reflects Brazil’s major efforts to build up its military force, especially to protect its Amazon resources and its deepwater oilfields, which are located some 300 km from the coasts. The agreement also shows Brazil’s determination to reduce its dependence on the US. In the last five years, Brazil has increased its purchases of US arms by 38%, but purchases from France have gone up by 175%.

French companies will benefit most from the deal; they are getting about 6 billion euros (some $8.45 billion), more than all of France’s arms exports in 2007 (5.7 billion euros). But French analysts say France is also seeking a strong ally outside Europe and the US, one that is less “controversial” than China or Russia and more politically stable than India. Another of France’s concerns is its status as the last European country with territory in South America. Lula and Sarkozy agreed to inaugurate a bridge over the Oyapock river in 2010 to increase trade between French Guiana, which borders Brazil and Suriname. (O Globo, Brazil, Dec. 24 from correspondent; La Jornada, Mexico, Dec. 24 from DPA, Reuters; Le Monde, Paris, Dec. 24 from correspondent; L’Humanite, Paris, Dec. 24)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 21

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