Brazil rejects deforestation concerns on EU-Mercosur deal

Brazil rejects deforestation concerns on EU-Mercosur deal

Brazil hit back Tuesday at European reluctance to finalize a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur blocs over concerns about Amazon deforestation, saying a French report on the issue was motivated by "protectionist interests."

France said Friday it was opposed to the yet-to-be-ratified deal, after a government-commissioned report blasted the accord as a "missed opportunity" to hold South American countries accountable for protecting the environment.

The report notably analyzed the link between the expansion of beef production in Brazil and deforestation in the Amazon, where environmentalists accuse farmers, ranchers and land speculators of razing trees to make way for crops and pasture.

But Brazil argued the report "showed the true protectionist interests of those who commissioned it."

"Brazil has already shown it is capable of increasing beef, soy and corn production while also reducing deforestation," the foreign and agriculture ministries said in a joint statement.

"From 2004 to 2012, deforestation in the Amazon region fell 83 percent even as agricultural production increased 61 percent.... That is consistent with the historical trend of increasing agricultural production in Brazil resulting from productivity gains compatible with environmental preservation."

The draft deal between the European Union and Mercosur -- Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay -- was agreed in principle last year after two decades of wrangling.

But it still needs to be ratified by all 27 EU member states.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also voiced "significant doubts" about the deal, given the extent of deforestation, her spokesman said last month.

The latest volley came as President Jair Bolsonaro said Brazil was the victim of a "brutal disinformation campaign" on Amazon deforestation in his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic, has faced international criticism over deforestation in the Amazon, which has surged on his watch, according to his own government's figures.

In 2019, Bolsonaro's first year in office, deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon increased 85.3 percent, to a record 10,123 square kilometers (3,910 square miles) -- nearly the size of Lebanon.

So far this year, the rate is down by about five percent, though the number of wildfires has increased 12 percent, to 71,673.

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