France to help Brazil's biggest city build metro line
France will help Brazil's commercial capital build a new metro line, in one of two investment deals signed Friday on the last day of French President Francois Hollande's Brazil visit.
Sao Paulo state, the wealthiest in the Latin American powerhouse, will also make what Hollande called a "major" investment in Paris in a project that aims to create 2,500 French jobs.
"I think that the metro must be built quickly," Hollande quipped late Thursday as he got a taste of Sao Paulo's horrendous traffic when he flew in from Brasilia for an encounter with the local French community.
The deal, sealed as Hollande met with Sao Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin, involves a $410 million investment by the French Development Agency to construct a metro line between Sao Paulo airport and the city center.
The second agreement concerns what the French leader described as "a major Brazilian investment" of some $890 million from Sao Paulo to build a world trade center near Paris Roissy airport.
Hollande then joined his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff at an economic forum attended by business leaders from both countries.
"I want to see more French investments in Brazil," Hollande told the forum. "I also want Brazilian investments in France."
Expressing full confidence in Brazil's potential, he renewed his call for doubling two-way trade, currently valued at around $9 billion, based on technology transfer. He also suggested regular bilateral consultations to further that aim.
France is the fifth biggest investor in Brazil, with 600 French firms operating in the world's seventh largest economy.
Touting her country's solid macro-economic fundamentals despite its anemic GDP growth -- 2.5 percent expected this year -- Rousseff also lobbied for more French investments in this emerging power of 200 million people and for closer links between the business community of both countries.
"The French presence is very important for Brazil's development," notably in the energy, military, aerospace and infrastructure fields, she added.
Both she and Hollande stressed the importance of nailing down a free trade deal between the European Union and South American trading bloc Mercosur.
The protracted negotiations have stalled over differences on agriculture -- notably Europe's subsidies to its farmers, which undermine South America's efforts to sell its own products.
Hollande, accompanied by a large business delegation and several ministers, arrived Thursday in Brasilia and had wide-ranging talks with Rousseff with a strong economic focus while a raft of trade and cultural deals were signed .
Several contracts and accords were signed during the visit, including the supply of a $550 million civilian-military telecoms satellite by French-Italian firm Thales Alenia Space.
As expected no decision was announced on France's bid to sell its Rafale fighter jet. Brazil is looking to buy 36 multi-purpose jets to modernize its air force -- a multi-billion-dollar deal -- and the issue has been at the center of bilateral talks in recent years.
The Rafale fighter, built by French firm Dassault Aviation, is up against US aviation giant Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and Swedish manufacturer Saab's Gripen.
During an encounter with Sao Paulo's French community late Thursday, Hollande bestowed the Legion d'honneur, France's highest award, on retired football star Rai Souza Vieira de Oliveira.
Rai, as he was known, had a stellar career with Paris Saint-Germain in the 1990s and currently runs two philanthropic foundations in Sao Paulo.
Hollande later left for neighboring French Guiana before flying back to Paris.
© 2013 AFP