Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has put the landmark European Union-Mercosur trade agreement in jeopardy, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The trade deal, which was approved in principle last year, is in the process of undergoing legal revision in the E.U. Then it must be approved and ratified by each of the 27 member states.
A spokesman for the chancellor said that the leader of the E.U.’s largest economy has been left with serious doubts about the viability of the deal after meeting with environmental activists.
“The chancellor’s position is that… there are significant doubts as to whether the agreement can be implemented in its intended spirit, considering the current developments and the terrible loss of forests taking place there [in Brazil],” Steffen Seibert said.See Also: Trade News
The meeting coincided with an announcement from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which said that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon had increased by more than a third since August 2019.
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Overall, the organization estimates that deforestation has increased by 30 percent since the election of the conservative president Jair Bolsonaro in 2018.
If passed, the trade agreement would remove tax barriers and increase quotas on 90 percent of goods traded among the E.U. and the four members of the Mercosur – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Olive oil producers and exporters on both sides of the Atlantic eagerly awaited the full ratification of the deal when it was announced last year. However, the certainty of the deal being approved by all 27 E.U. member states has diminished considerably since.
Environmental activists have warned that eliminating tariffs on Brazilian beef and soybeans would serve as renewed incentive for farmers and ranchers to continue clearing land in the Amazon, which is frequently done through controlled burns.
Merkel is not the first E.U. leader to cast doubt on the deal. French President Emmanuel Macron previously questioned the viability of the deal after thousands of wildfires burned across the Amazon last year.
Argentina’s new president, Alberto Fernández, has also signaled that implementing the deal his predecessor fought so hard to pass is not at the top of his administration’s list of priorities.
Last year’s announcement that an agreement had been reached between the two trading blocs was a historic moment and came after 20 years of negotiations. The ratification of the deal would create a combined market of 780 million people.
In spite of some opposition from member states, the European Commission remains steadfast in its commitment to ratifying and implementing the deal.
“The agreement represents a win-win for both the E.U. and Mercosur, creating opportunities for growth, jobs and sustainable development on both sides,” the Commission said.