Saturday

21st Sep 2019

EU to discuss Brazil beef ban over Amazon fires

  • Brazil is the world's top beef exporter (Photo: Eduardo Amorim)

The EU ought to consider banning Brazilian beef unless it takes action on forest fires, Finland, the holder of the EU presidency, has said.

"The EU and Finland are urgently exploring the possibility of banning imports of Brazilian beef," Mika Lintila, the Finnish finance minister, announced on Twitter on Friday (23 August).

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  • Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro (l) ridiculed France, Norway, and Germany (Photo: Palácio do Planalto)

"Finance ministers are responsible for a number of instruments ... to mitigate climate change. These actions threaten to be rendered useless if carbon sinks are systematically destroyed," he added.

EU finance ministers would discuss the ban at an informal meeting in Helsinki on 13 September if there was "no progress before then", he noted.

EU foreign ministers will already discuss the situation more broadly at an informal meeting next Thursday, Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto also said on Friday.

And the two ministers have the full support of Finnish leader Antti Rinne, who said the same day: "I contacted the European Commission yesterday evening, and I expect that the EU will take action".

He did not mention the beef ban, but he said: "It goes without saying that in terms of climate change, the world cannot sustain such fires".

Brazil's embassy to the EU could not comment because its ambassador was on holiday.

A commission spokeswoman said EU officials would react to Finland's beef idea once they had found out more about it.

The EU buys 120,000 tonnes a year of beef from Brazil, about one tenth of its total beef exports, and pays some of the highest prices for prime cuts.

European imports were set to increase due to tariff cuts under a new trade deal between the EU and Mercosur, a South American bloc.

But France and Ireland have also said they would not sign the trade pact unless Brazil tries to stop the blaze.

"There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments," Irish leader Leo Varadkar said on Friday.

"In these conditions, France will oppose the Mercosur deal as it is," French president Emmanuel Macron's spokesman also told the Reuters news agency.

Undiplomatic

Using undiplomatic language, the Elysee spokesman accused Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro of having "lied" to Macron on climate promises at a recent summit in Japan.

A Finnish diplomat told EUobserver that Helsinki had not yet taken a position on Mercosur trade.

In separate action, Germany (€35m a year) and Norway (€30m a year) have frozen deforestation aid to Brazil.

The fires have been linked to the far-right Bolsonaro's permits for cutting down trees to help big business.

Macron earlier said the blaze would be discussed by G7 leaders meeting in France this weekend.

But Bolsonaro told him to butt out, while accusing him of "a misplaced colonialist mindset".

"Isn't Norway that country that kills whales up there in the North Pole? Take that money and help [German leader] Angela Merkel reforest Germany," he also said on Norway.

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The European parliament debates on Tuesday the fires in the Amazon region. "It goes without saying that, in light of the gravity of the situation, Europe will need to renegotiate the Mercosur agreement", writes MEP Kathleen Van Brempt.

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