The Defense minister of Brazil, Nelson Jobim, announced Monday, December 22, an agreement with France for the construction of a nuclear submarine. Jobim said France would help build a yard in Rio de Janeiro, in southeast Brazil, for the assembling of four conventional Scorpène submarines and one nuclear powered.
The announcement coincides with President Nicholas Sarkozy two-day visit to Brazil in his double role as EU rotating president and leader of France.
"In twenty years time we will be receiving the nuclear submarine with full technology transfer and with Brazilian engineers trained in French factories and yards," said Jobim.
The Brazilian navy has been working for almost three decades in the development of a nuclear powered submarine.
The purpose of the submarine is to patrol the coastline between the cities of Santos, Sao Paulo's main port and Brazil's largest and Vitória in the state of Espírito Santo, an area where in 2007 was discovered an oil and gas basin estimated to hold reserves equivalent to 50 billion barrels.
Jobim said the yard in Rio do Janeiro will be privately built and managed and 20 years later will be handed over to the government.
Defense issues are top of the agenda of Tuesday's bilateral meetings between presidents Sarkozy and Lula. On Monday both leaders also met but in the framework of the EU-Brazil summit.
Besides submarines the Brasilia-Paris agreement includes 50 helicopters for which Brazil is expected to pay US$ 1.9 billion, revealed Jobim.
At the beginning of the year Minister Jobim traveled to Paris to begin talks on a strategic agreement in Defense issues, which was later advanced during a bilateral meeting of Lula and Sarkozy at the French Guyana.
Lula said on Monday that Brazil's Defense industry "had been dismantled and must be reorganized. It's a long term project, not something to be achieved in two days or two years."
The recovery and reactivation of Brazil's Defense industry with French technology is one of the goals of Brazil's Strategic Defense Plan which was presented last week.
"A country with the dimension of Brazil, which has discovered huge oil reserves, that must defend its Amazon, must have a Defense strategy, not thinking about war, but thinking of guaranteeing and protecting its patrimony," said Lula da Silva.
France promised earlier this year to help Brazil build the Scorpène attack submarine, a conventional diesel-powered vessel that Brazilian officials hope will help them develop Latin America's first nuclear-propelled submarine.
They said it would protect Brazil's large offshore oil reserves and exploration platforms. In South America Chile already has two Scorpène submersibles.
Brazil in 1979 began a formal program to develop a nuclear submarine and the administration of Lula last year announced US$ 540 million in new funding for the program and for uranium enrichment efforts.
Brazil's Foreign Ministry said the two presidents will also sign agreements on sustainable development and protection of the Amazon rain forest and in education, science and nuclear energy.
European Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso told the private Agência Estado news agency that the leaders also should discuss ways to revive the Doha Round of world trade talks that collapsed in July after countries such as India and Brazil rebuffed an offer by the U.S. and Europe to gradually reduce farm subsidies in exchange for lower tariffs on food imports by developing countries.
Barroso is also expected to give his support for Brazil's push for larger emerging economies to have a greater say in building the world's future financial architecture, according to a commission spokesman.
Another issue in the EU-Brazil agenda is bio-fuel of which Brazil is the world's second producer, behind the US, particularly in light of Europe's drive to increase the proportion of its vehicles powered by ethanol.
On a more political level Brazil's goal of joining the UN Security Council as a permanent member is expected to be addressed. Brazil counts with the support from Britain, France and Germany, but also has to contend with opposition from Italy and Spain.