EU piles pressure on Brazil over Amazon fires
DUBLIN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union piled pressure on Friday on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over fires raging in the Amazon basin, with Ireland and France saying they could block a trade deal and Finland urging a ban on Brazilian beef imports.
Bolsonaro has rejected what he calls foreign interference in domestic affairs in Brazil, where vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest are ablaze in what is known as the burning season.
Environmentalists have blamed deforestation for an increase in fires and accuse the right-wing president of relaxing protection of a vast carbon trap and climate driver that is crucial to combating global climate change.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said Bolsonaro had been lying when he played down concerns about climate change at the G20 summit in Japan in June and that, in this light, France would oppose the farming deal struck between the EU and the Mercosur countries: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Dublin would vote against the free trade deal unless Brazil acted to protect the rainforest.
Varadkar said he was very concerned at the record levels of rainforest destruction, and that the Irish government would closely monitor Brazil’s environmental actions in the two years until the Mercosur deal was ratified.
“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honor its environmental commitments,” he said in a statement.
Ireland would need other EU states to help form a blocking minority if it wants to kill the deal, reached in June after 20 years of negotiations.
But the Irish government is under pressure to defend its beef farmers, already suffering from Britain’s looming EU exit and low prices, by seeking to ensure Mercosur countries do not flood the market with cheaper beef.
Finland, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, suggested a ban on Brazilian beef imports.
Prime Minister Antti Rinne said the fires were “a threat to our whole planet, not just to Brazil or South America”.
“We must find out whether the Europeans have something to offer Brazil to help prevent this kind of fires in the future,” he added.
Leaders of the world’s most advanced economies are also expected to discuss the matter when they meet for the G7 summit in France this weekend.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said he would use the gathering to call for international action to protect the world’s rainforests.
Reporting by Graham Fahy in Dublin, Anna Kauranen in Helsinki, Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels, William James in London; Editing by Kevin Liffey