PARIS -- French President Francois Hollande will seek to boost ties with Brazil during a two-day state visit to Latin America's dominant economic power tomorrow and Friday.
The trip aims to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries, according to Hollande's office, which hailed a surge in bilateral trade and investments.
France is the fifth-biggest investor in Brazil, the world's seventh-largest economy. About 600 French companies have set up shop in Brazil, and bilateral trade totals $8.8 billion.
Hollande's visit, with scheduled stops in Brasilia and Sao Paulo, the country's economic capital, comes exactly a year after his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff visited Paris.
Several contracts are to be signed, relating to the participation of French energy giant Total (IW 1000/9) in exploration of the huge ultra-deepwater Libra oil field and the supply of a $550 million civilian-military telecommunications satellite by French-Italian firm Thales Alenia Space (IW 1000/244).
France's nuclear energy giant Areva is meanwhile to ink a contract worth more than $1.37 billion to build a third reactor at Brazil's Angra nuclear power plant in Rio de Janeiro state.
No decision is expected on France's bid to sell its Rafale fighter jet. Brazil is looking to buy 36 multipurpose jets to modernize its air force -- a multibillion-dollar deal -- and the issue has been at the centre of bilateral talks in recent years.
The Rafale fighter, built by French firm Dassault Aviation, is up against the Boeing (IW 500/14) F/A-18 Super Hornet and Swedish manufacturer Saab's Gripen.
"There is a French offer on the table, but Paris does not want to rush things," a French official said. "It's up to Brazilian authorities to decide in due course."
Hollande was expected to brief Rousseff on France's current military intervention to stem bloodletting in its former colony, the Central African Republic.
Brasilia has warned Paris against succumbing to "old colonial temptations."
Other agenda items include preparation of the ambitious global climate pact to be signed in Paris in 2015 and Franco-Brazilian academic exchanges.
Hollande will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Justice Minister Christian Taubira and six other cabinet members.
And, six months before the kickoff of the World Cup, the French leader will award the Legion d'honneur, France's highest decoration, to retired football star Rai Souza Vieira de Oliveira.
Rai, as he was known, had a brilliant career with Paris Saint-Germain in the 1990s and now runs two philanthropic foundations.
On Friday, Hollande is to head French Guiana for his first visit to a French overseas department since his election last year.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013