Macron warns he won't sign Mercosur deal if Brazil leaves climate accord

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a news conference after the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he would not sign any trade deal with Brazil if President Jair Bolsonaro pulled out of the Paris climate accord, threatening to put a spanner in the works of EU-Mercosur trade negotiations.

EU talks with the Mercosur group of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the world’s fourth-largest trade bloc, have intensified, with Bolsonaro saying this month a deal could be signed “soon”, while the EU called it the “number one priority”.

However, EU nerves about a surge of beef imports and Mercosur hesitation about opening up some industrial sectors, such as cars, have meant past deadlines have come and gone. A deal may be close, but just beyond reach.

France in particular is worried about the impact on its vast agriculture industry of South American imports that would not have to respect strict EU environmental regulations.

“If Brasil left the Paris accord, as far our we are concerned, we could not sign a trade deal with them,” Macron told reporters in Japan ahead of a G20 meeting.

“For a simple reason. We’re asking our farmers to stop using pesticides, we’re asking our companies to produce less carbon, that has a competitiveness cost,” he said.

“So we’re not going to say from one day to the next that we’ll let in goods from countries that don’t respect any of that,” he added.

Earlier this year, France voted against the opening of trade negotiations between the EU and the United States because of Washington’s decision to quit the Paris climate accord.

However, the French move did not block opening of the trade negotiations because the necessary majority of EU member states backed it. It is unclear whether France would be able to rally other countries in the EU if it voted against a Mercosur deal.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Leigh Thomas