Brazil criticizes EU ‘protectionism’ behind planned anti-deforestation law


Brazil’s foreign minister attacked the European Union for “trade protectionism” and “myopia” after the union proposed a ban on agricultural imports from deforested areas, and France targeted criticism especially over agricultural subsidies.

Brussels proposed a law this month that would force companies selling beef, soybeans, palm oil, coffee, cocoa and wood to conglomerate to prove that the goods were not produced on deforested or degraded land after 2020.

Brazil is a major exporter of many of the targeted products, and the EU initiative has reignited long-running tensions with the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, which sees ulterior motives behind the bloc’s proposal.

“What I cannot accept is that the environment is used as a form of trade protectionism. It is bad for consumers [and] Foreign Minister Carlos Alberto Franco Franca told the Financial Times in an interview. “I think there is a certain short-sightedness of the European Union.”

The planned legislation was published shortly before new satellite data showed that the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon region had risen to its highest level in 15 years, raising new questions about the government’s commitment to protecting the world’s largest rainforest.

More than 13,200 square kilometers were dredged in the 12 months to July – an area more than eight times the size of Greater London – representing a 22 percent jump from the previous year, according to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). This was the fastest rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon since 2006.

These numbers overshadow the plaudits that Brazil has won for its pledges at this month’s COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, including a pledge to halt illegal deforestation by 2028 and a more ambitious net-zero target for 2050.” [deforestation] The numbers are shocking. “Brazil has a serious credibility problem,” said a senior Western diplomat in Brasilia.

França called the latest forest destruction data “surprising”, but said the numbers were “not as bad as they seem” because there has been an improvement since July. Inpe data for August, September and October of this year indicates a 28 percent decrease in the number of wildfires.

“There is no Brazilian desire to hide the problem,” the minister added. “When there is illegal deforestation, it is often linked to other crimes, such as labor infractions, tax evasion and money laundering. We treat it as a police matter and that yields results.”

Brazil prides itself on its technologically advanced and highly productive agricultural sector, and officials often stress that the vast majority of the country’s agricultural exports come from properly managed lands in the center and south of the country, rather than from illegally cleared forests in the Amazon.

And criticism was directed at the French, who criticized France’s support for its agricultural sector. I understand the internal political reasons for the French government to support its farmers. It is not environmentally correct that they give [agricultural] subsidies. Because land and water are scarce resources, and their inefficient operation is not sustainable.

“It is better to grow here in Brazil where agriculture is increasingly technically advanced than to produce in France.”

Disagreements between Brazil and its European counterparts contributed to the deadlock in the ratification of a painstakingly negotiated 20-year trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur, a bloc that also includes Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Brussels is reluctant to move forward with ratification of the agreement due to strong opposition from some member states who believe Brazil in particular is not doing enough to combat deforestation. France agreed that the trade agreement was “not going forward”. “We are not the party blocking the agreement, and Brazil is ready to move forward,” a State Department spokesperson added.

Franca was a high-ranking diplomat who worked in the United States, Bolivia, and Paraguay, and was previously Chief of Protocol at the Presidential Palace under Bolsonaro. He was appointed foreign minister in March, replacing Ernesto Araujo, an outspoken Hezbollah ideologue. Bolsonarist He was known for his admiration for Donald Trump, his hatred of globalization and accused of hostility towards China.



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