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EU contacts Brazil to resume Mercosur trade pact talks – report

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REUTERS/ Bruno Kelly

REUTERS/ Bruno Kelly

REUTERS/ Bruno Kelly

European Union representatives have approached Brazil's government seeking to rekindle negotiations with South America's Mercosur bloc on a stalled trade agreement, according to Reuters.

The Mercosur deal, which has taken two decades to negotiate and would create the world's largest free market in terms of population.

However, there has been significant opposition to the deal within Europe particularly from farmers in France and Ireland. Further, environmental concerns over the deal has led to significant opposition to the deal in many Member States.

The deal has created huge concerns among those in the Irish beef sector as it would allow for the importation of 100,000 additional tonnes of beef into the EU market.

Despite this, Brazil’s emergence as an ‘agricultural powerhouse’ amid the ongoing war in Ukraine is reported to be the rationale behind the EU’s return to the talks.

Meanwhile, the development comes as Brazilian presidential election frontrunner Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he favors reopening talks on a stalled European Union trade deal with South American trade bloc Mercosur to add provisions on environmental protection, human rights and technology, a senior foreign policy adviser said.

If the leftist former president wins the October vote, Brazil would likely join calls by Argentina and environmentalists to review the agreement now blocked in Europe over concerns about destruction of the Amazon rainforest under far right President Jair Bolsonaro, adviser Celso Amorim told Reuters.

"That does not mean renegotiating the whole pact or starting from zero," said Amorim, who was Lula's foreign minister during his two terms as president from 2003 to 2010.

The position spotlights a delicate balance for Lula, who has made bold environmental pledges while shoring up old ties with agribusiness leaders who criticize Europe's environmental demands as hypocritical barriers to trade. 

"Without it becoming a pretext for protectionism, I think we can strengthen clauses on climate," said Amorim.

"It has to be a balanced agreement that takes into account global warming and the need for sustainable development while, on the other hand, allowing industrial development with up-to-date technology that must be green," he said.

Amorim also suggested "adjustments" to the accord, which took two decades to negotiate, in order to improve provisions on government purchases, services and intellectual property.

He said Lula believes in the need for a strategic accord between the EU and Mercosur, creating the largest free trade area in the world.

Lula was leading by double digits in opinion polls ahead of the Oct. 2 election against Bolsonaro, whose presidency has seen increased deforestation of the Amazon.

"With Bolsonaro in government, there cannot be any Mercosur agreement, that is crystal clear," said European Member of Parliament Anna Cavazzini, who last week led a Greens/EFA political group mission to Brazil to evaluate the threat to the Amazon region from illegal gold mining and logging.

In 2020, her Greens/EFA successfully pushed through an amendment barring the Mercosur pact from advancing in its current form because of deforestation.

"The deal must be renegotiated to make absolutely clear that we do not import goods from deforested areas," she said in a telephone interview, adding: "I don't know if we need an agreement at all."

Cavazzini and two MEP colleagues, Michele Rivasi and Claude Gruffat, visited indigenous communities and met their leaders during their visit to the Amazon, where they said the lack of law enforcement was "shocking."

"Being there and seeing how much the indigenous people are really affected was heartbreaking," Cavazzini said. "Brazil and Europe need to change course and act, otherwise the forest will disappear.

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