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LATIN AMERICA | 13-12-2020 19:45

'Distrust' of Brazil stalls EU-Mercosur trade deal

Concerns over Amazon deforestation under Bolsonaro are delaying the ratification of a two-decades long negotiated trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur.

European distrust of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's government is holding up ratification of a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur, the EU ambassador to Brasilia said. 

After two decades of negotiations, the EU's draft deal with the South American trade bloc would create a huge market of more than 750 million people.

However, the ratification process has stalled among the EU's 27 members, notably over concerns about Brazil's perceived lack of commitment to protecting the Amazon rainforest.

"The distrust is there," the EU ambassador to Brazil, Ignacio Ybáñez Rubio, said on Saturday. 

"We've been expressing our concern (about environmental issues) to the Brazilian government for some time now," he continued. 

Ybáñez said the EU executive vice president Valdis Dombrovskis "has already said that unless we re-establish trust in the Brazilian government on that point, it's going to be very difficult to move forward."

Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic, has faced international criticism over deforestation in the Amazon, which has surged during his time in office. 

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased by 9.5% and reached a 12-year high in August, destroying a total area larger than Jamaica, according to Brazilian government figures.

Various EU states including France and Germany have expressed reservations about finalizing the deal with Mercosur–which comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay–mainly because of environmental concerns.

A French government-commissioned report earlier this year found the deal would fuel an increase in South American beef production and give way to a 25% rise in deforestation.

The Bolsonaro government fired back by saying that the report showed France's "protectionist interests."

Speculation has been swirling recently around whether the two sides might reopen negotiations to find a mutually acceptable compromise. However, Ybáñez said that would be beside the point.

"What would be good is (for Brazil) to find a political commitment to present in Europe to address the lack of trust in the Brazilian government's performance," he said.

"The agreement itself is very good. We don't need to reopen it."

- AFP

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