EU looks to block trade deal over Brazil fires
France and Ireland say they will block a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur, the bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, unless Brazil takes action over the Amazon forest fires.
The EU-Mercosur trade agreement has been described as the EU’s biggest deal so far that has taken 20 years to negotiate.
Leaders of the world’s major democracies will hold emergency talks this weekend on the wildfires.
French President Emmanuel Macron riled his populist Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro, by calling the wildfires an “international crisis” that should be addressed by this weekend’s G7 summit in Biarritz.
The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.
“Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rainforest, the lungs of our planet which produces 20 per cent of our oxygen, is on fire. It is an international crisis,” the French president tweeted.
Macron claimed Bolsonaro had “lied” to him over his climate commitments. The far-right Bolsonaro said he was considering sending the army to fight the fires.
Bolsonaro replied that Macron was being “sensationalist” and using the wildfires for “political gain”.
The “Trump of the Tropics” tweeted: “The suggestion of the French president that Amazonian issues be discussed in the G7 without countries in the region participating is reminiscent of a colonial mindset inappropriate in the 21st century.”
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Bolsonaro’s attempt to blame the wildfires on environmental groups was “Orwellian”.
The EU is Mercosur’s second-largest trade partner in goods, accounting for 20.1 per cent of last year’s total.
The EU’s exports to Mercosur made up just 2.3 per cent of the bloc’s total exports last year.
EU exports include machinery, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating chairmanship, called for more trade restrictions. Finnish finance minister Mika Lintila said he “condemns the destruction of the Amazon and calls for Finland and the EU to urgently look into the possibility of banning Brazilian beef imports”.
German environment minister Svenja Schulze said the Mercosur trade deal “cannot be justified without guarantees that the rainforest will be protected”.
Schulze added that the Brazilian authorities “deserve our support when it comes to preserving the rainforest … However, Brazil itself must want this assistance, and not counteract it with a national policy of increased clearance”.
In Brazil, protests against the government’s environmental policies are planned in 40 cities.
“This country made a Herculean effort to reduce deforestation in the Amazon and now we are seeing everything being taken apart,” tweeted former environment minister Marina Silva. “Brazil had stopped being a villain and it is now going back to being a pariah. We must stop this insanity.”
Rampant fires have been reported recently in Indonesia, Russia, Germany, France and elsewhere in Europe. Picture credit: Wikimedia