EU VP meets Brazil's Bolsonaro, welcomes pledge to end deforestation

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EU's foreign policy chief and European Commission Vice-President Josep Borrell looks on while meeting with Venezuelan people at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

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BRASILIA, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's government has shown new commitment to ending illegal deforestation in the Amazon and is aware it is a hurdle to improved ties with Europe, the Vice President of the European Union Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

Borrell met briefly with Bolsonaro on the first visit to Brazil by a senior EU representative in nine years. He also held talks with the ministers of environment and foreign affairs.

"The will is there, because the ministers know that it will be good for Brazil to put an end to illegal exploitation of the Amazon rainforest," he told Reuters by telephone.

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At the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow this week, Brazil joined more than 100 countries that committed to ending deforestation by 2030. Brazil is home to 60% of the Amazon rainforest, the world's largest, but its destruction has soared since Bolsonaro took office in 2019. read more

Borrell said Brazil's commitment to the global pledge to cut methane gas emissions, which Brazilian agriculture generates in large quantities, was another step in the right direction. read more

"We need Brazil in the global effort to fight climate change. The world needs Brazil," he said.

The European Union is the main destination for timber illegally cut down in the Amazon, which is often shipped with false documents for the origin of the wood.

Borrell said the EU is prepared to tighten verification of papers for wood imported from Brazil to crack down on an illegal trade worth billions of dollars a year.

"We have to do our part to combat this," he said.

Without enhanced credibility on the environmental front, and on rainforest deforestation in particular, member states will not approve an EU trade accord with South America's Mercosur trade bloc, which has been two decades in the making, he said.

"Clearly there is serious resistance to approving the agreement in some countries that consider its environmental protections insufficient," he said.

A document that would be annexed to the accord containing environmental pledges has still not been drawn up. "We are on it. It is harder than it looks," Borrell said.

European diplomats said they have not given up on the Mercosur deal, but it was unlikely that the executive European Commission would bring it to the European Council any time soon.

"Brazil is doing a lot better, but needs to do more to improve its image," said a diplomat with knowledge of the matter.

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Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Richard Pullin

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