BRASILIA, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The free-trade treaty reached between the European Union and the South American bloc Mercosur will not get signed if Brazil does not show concrete steps toward reducing deforestation in the Amazon, European ambassadors said on Wednesday.
“We need facts. If there are no advances, it will not be possible to sign this agreement,” Ignacio Ybañez, EU ambassador to Brazil, told reporters.
If that does not happen, the European Commission will not be able to present the deal that took two decades to negotiate to the European Parliament for ratification, he said.
“We will continue to be demanding with Brazil until there are concrete results. Brazil knows what has to be done,” Ybañez said.
In a breakthrough against protectionism, the EU agreed in June 2019 to create a free-trade area of 700 million people with South American trade bloc Mercosur, which is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
But France and the European Parliament have since led opposition to finalizing the treaty, saying Mercosur must do more to meet its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement and that Brazil is failing to combat Amazon deforestation.
Deforestation in the world’s largest rain forest has surged since President Jair Bolsonaro, who campaigned on opening more areas of the Amazon to development, took office in 2019. Destruction in Brazil’s portion of the Amazon hit a 12-year high last year.
The Brazilian government could not immediately be reached for comment on the EU envoy’s remarks but it rejects criticism it is not doing enough to stop deforestation in the Amazon, protect the environment and prevent climate change.
It argues that the EU pressure on Brazil comes from protectionists’ interests.
EU diplomats are seeking to overcome resistance in Europe by negotiating a complementary declaration that would reaffirm the commitment of Mercosur and EU countries to sustainability and environmental goals.
EU chair Portugal is hoping that a strategic partnership and its historic and cultural ties with its former colony can help sway the Brazilian government to make the commitments.
“Brazil needs to explain concretely what it is going to do,” said Portugal’s ambassador to Brazil, Luís Faro Ramos.
Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Peter Cooney
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