Brazil’s “mistrust” blocks EU-Mercosur trade deal: official

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Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

Distrust in Europe towards the government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is delaying the ratification of a trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur, said the EU ambassador in Brasilia.

Granted in principle last year 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.

But the ratification process has stalled among the 27 EU members, not least because of concerns about Brazil’s perceived lack of commitment to protect the Amazon rainforest.

“The mistrust is there,” said EU Ambassador to Brazil, Spanish diplomat Ignacio Ybanez Rubio, in an interview published on Saturday on the Brazilian news site Congresso em Foco.

“We have been expressing our concern (regarding environmental issues) to the Brazilian government for some time now,” he said.

He said that EU Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis “has already said that if we do not restore confidence in the Brazilian government on this point, it will be very difficult to move forward”.

Bolsonaro, a far-right skeptic of climate change, has faced international criticism of deforestation in the Amazon, which has leapt under his leadership.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased 9.5 percent to a 12-year high in August, destroying a total area larger than Jamaica, Brazilian government figures show.

Several EU states, including France and Germany, have expressed reservations about finalizing the deal with Mercosur – which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – mainly due to environmental concerns.

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

The Bolsonaro government retorted that the report showed France’s “protectionist interests”.

Speculation has recently revolved around whether the two sides could reopen negotiations in an attempt to find a mutually acceptable compromise.

But Ybanez said it would be irrelevant.

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

“The deal itself is very good. We don’t need to reopen it. ”

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