04 September 2017

EU trade talks must confront Brazil’s attack on Amazon reserve

MEPs warn EU Commission to act as EU-Mercosur negotiations continue

Simon McKeagney, Editor

The Brazilian government’s attempt to open up a vast area of protected Amazon reserve for mining extraction must be addressed by the European Commission in their on-going trade negotiations, a number of Green MEPs today demanded.  

The EU-Mercosur Agreement, which includes Brazil, would have a ‘tremendous impact on the rate of resource extraction in Brazil and potentially from this formerly protected region,’ according to a letter sent by MEPs to Commission President Juncker and Trade Commissioner Malmström today. 

The EU’s existing imports from Brazil are dominated by primary products, over a quarter of which are mineral products, meaning it is crucial that the Commission ‘keep up the pressure on the Temer administration to retract plans to open up parts of the Renca reserve’ the letter warns. 

The Renca covers some 46,000 square kilometers of Amazonian rainforest and is home to the Aparai, Wajapi and Wayana indigenous communities. Widespread public uproar about the move resulted in a federal court issuing a temporary suspension of the government decree last week, arguing that Brazil’s Congress would need to be consulted on the move.

However, the Congress is dominated by ranching and mining interests. Environmental groups warn that despite the suspension, the Renca region remains at risk of commercial mining.

EU-Mercosur talks this week

This week EU officials will meet with their counterparts from Mercosur for inter-sessional talks ahead of the next round of formal negotiations between the 4-6 of October, with an aim to complete the negotiations by the end of 2017. As it stands, the chapter on raw materials has not been made publicly available, and could make matters worse:

“We are highly concerned that a chapter on raw materials in the EU-Mercosur deal will facilitate further degradation of the rainforest and the intimidation of indigenous peoples and rural communities by attracting European extractive and agribusines and encouraging mineral and agricultural exports from the Renca reserve’ says Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP.

“MEPs will have a final vote on any final deal with Mercosur countries. It is not clear that strong safeguards have been included in these talks to avoid problems like this now or in the future. If it transpires that European efforts to increase trade in raw materials threatens the most important rainforest on the planet, we will vote against the agreement.”

Martin Häusling, Member of the EuroLat delegation in the European Parliament also called for the chapters relating to raw materials to be made publicly available:

“The EU-Mercosur talks suffers from the same lack of transparency that all EU trade deals suffer from. There is no doubt that mining companies and the extractive industry lobbied the Commission to include beneficial elements in the raw materials chapter. But elected representatives still haven’t seen what it includes. Only full transparency can ensure that these deals begin to benefit people and the planet. That is why we are calling for the negotiating texts to be released, and for the Commission to use every measure at its' disposal to protect the Renca reserve in the Amazon.”

Read the full letter here.

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