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EU-Mercosur trade deal to clear environmental hurdles this year, EU commissioner says

Reuters | 2 May 2022

EU-Mercosur trade deal to clear environmental hurdles this year, EU commissioner says

By Jake Spring

SAO PAULO, May 2 (Reuters) - The European Union and the South American trade bloc Mercosur could by year’s end resolve environmental concerns that are holding up a free trade agreement, EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius told Reuters.

EU ambassadors have previously told Brazil that the free trade deal with Mercosur, agreed to in principle in 2019, will not be ratified unless concrete steps are taken to stop soaring destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

The Mercosur bloc includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Brazilian ministers have in turn accused opponents of the deal of using environmental concerns as an excuse for trade protectionism.

Sinkevicius, the commissioner for the environment, said a "side letter" or addendum to the free trade agreement would address missing environmental safeguards. The ultimate approval of the free trade deal would depend on the side letter also being approved.

"We are working on the Mercosur agreement, on a side letter, which will be finalized, hopefully, this year ... as regards the missing parts ... for example, the environmental part," he said in a phone interview at the end of a four-day visit to Brazil.

Sinkevicius said he raised concerns with Brazil’s environment minister and legislators over a bill pending in the country’s Congress that would open up protected indigenous land to commercial mining.

If Congress passes the law, backed by right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, Sinkevicius said it could affect the free trade deal and Brazil’s application for membership to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group of rich nations.

"That would definitely not help," he said.

After three consecutive years of rising Brazilian deforestation under Bolsonaro, Sinkevicius said data available so far in 2022 indicate deforestation will likely go up again.

It’s too soon to say if Brazil has changed policy and is now taking environmental protection seriously, he said.

"I will only believe it when I see it," the commissioner said.

 source: Reuters