EU warns Brazil inaction on Amazon fires could threaten trade deal

EU warns Brazil inaction on Amazon fires could threaten trade deal
Editorial use only. HANDOUT /NO SALES Mandatory Credit: Photo by NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10367572a) A handout photo made available by NASA of a satellite image showing several fires burning in the Brazilian states of Amazonas (top C-L), Para (top R), Mato Grosso (bottom R) and Rondonia (bottom C), 13 August 2019 (issued 21 August 2019). In picture at bottom left is seen Bolivia. In the Amazon region, fires are rare for much of the year because wet weather prevents them from starting and spreading. However, in July and August, activity typically increases due to the arrival of the dry season. Many people use fire to maintain farmland and pastures or to clear land for other purposes. Fires in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil - 13 Aug 2019

The European Union would find it difficult to ratify the trade deal made with countries of South America, including Brazil, as long as the Amazon rain forest is allowed to continue to burn, European Council president Donald Tusk has warned.

Tusk was referring to the treaty signed with Mercosur, an organisation of South American nations Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, founded in Paraguay in 1991. The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Mercosur and the EU was agreed this year, and opens up all of European trade and 90% of Mercosur trade.

But the FTA has been heavily criticised especially by Europe’s farmers, who argue that their interests have been sold out to open up the South American market to Europe’s industrial products.

Now, led by France, the EU stands on the verge of refusing to ratify the FTA based on the actions of the Brazilian government to tackle the Amazon crisis. Without ratification by all of the members states of the EU, the FTA cannot come into force.

Of course we support the EU/Mercosur agreement,” Tusk said, speaking yesterday at the opening of the G7 summit in the French resort of Biarritz. “But it is hard to imagine a harmonious ratification process by the European nations as long as the Brazilian government allows the destruction of the green lungs of the planet.”

When the FTA with Mercosur was initially agreed – albeit after 20 years of discussions – French president Emmanuel Macron promised France would only agree to ratify if Brazil met certain environmental conditions. Macron is now accusing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro of lying about his intention to meet those conditions – extremely strong language in diplomatic terms.

But while France is pushing for the FTA to be used as a carrot to bring Bolsonaro into line over the Amazon, the German government has made it plain Berlin does not support such a move. “The refusal to ratify the Mercosur agreement will not contribute to a reduction in the deforestation in Brazil,” a government spokesperson said. The FTA already contains strict and binding engagements on climate and the environment, the German government says.

The subject of the forest fires is certain to come up at the G7 summit this weekend, but the EU’s part will be discussed later when all member states are present.

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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