After the clearing of the rainforest, there is now a free trade agreement without climate protection between the EU and South America – it has not yet been signed. Experts are outraged by the content.

What the whistleblower has delivered worries climate activists and politicians alike: the planned largest free trade zone in the world between the EU and South America should apparently do without clear rules for violations of eco-requirements. And this at a time when Europe has just set itself particularly ambitious CO2 targets with the “Green Deal” – but concerns about further deforestation of the Amazon rainforest are not over yet.

Greenpeace published an explosive paper on Friday. It is a preliminary version of the association agreement between the two trade blocs. The source remained anonymous – the environmentalists assured that the material leaked to them was authentic. Not only do they speak in a completed agreement with Mercosur about a neglect that would hardly be acceptable in terms of climate policy. EU parliamentarians and some EU states also see the treaty with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, which has been negotiated for years, at shaky feet.

In the design – only a raised index finger

The core of the criticism: The draft does not contain effective guidelines on how the parties punish violations of climate protection obligations. There are “no sanction clauses obliging the EU and Mercosur countries to respect climate or environmental protection,” Greenpeace complains. The text includes calls for exchange of information and experience, compliance with national obligations – but no measures to hold participating countries accountable in case of breaches.

It’s about a lot. After the failure of the transatlantic free trade area TTIP, the protectionism fueled by US President Donald Trump and the headwinds in his Ceta agreement with Canada, the EU is finally looking to succeed. Trade between Europe and South America should be stimulated through the reduction of customs duties, mutual recognition of standards and other facilities. Businesses and consumers should ultimately save billions.

Climate protection – not a ‘nice to have’

Reality is different for the critics. The environmental impact of ever-increasing trade growth should not only be mitigated, but non-compliance with protective measures should be penalized. Will more beef or soy exports lead to more slash and burn to extract pasture? “The agreement would accelerate the destruction of the Amazon, unleash climate chaos and destroy countless species,” said Jürgen Knirsch of Greenpeace. He calls for the text to be rejected: “In the 21st century, international agreements must put the protection of man and nature at the center.” That is not “nice-to-have”.

Targeted Clearing and Burning of Rainforest: Environmentalists fear an increase in cleanup (symbol). (Source: image broker / image images)

Climate protection only as a fig leaf? According to the newspaper, the contracting parties “welcome” the Paris Agreement and want its “rapid implementation”. “The global threat of climate change” is also recognized, which is why we need to work together “as much as possible”. But what happens in case of deviations remains open for the time being.

The question: new negotiations

Numerous MEPs had just blocked their ratification. The Green Anna Cavazzini said: “The situation in the burning Amazon region played an important role in the vote.” Renegotiations must take place “to fully integrate the Green Deal into the Mercosur Agreement, with sanctionable environmental and human rights standards”.

In other words, the European Commission is being asked. In almost no area does it have more to say than in the common foreign trade policy. She also represents the EU in the World Trade Organization (WTO), which has also set itself a green agenda, but recently looked chronically frail and suffered repeated barrage from the US.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Trade Commissioner: he has doubts about the agreement. (Source: imago images / le picorium)Valdis Dombrovskis, Trade Commissioner: he has doubts about the agreement. (Source: le picorium / image images)

The Brussels authority must send the final draft to the EU countries for approval before it comes to parliament. The commission said they wanted to leave the “leaked” version without comment. The new trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis had already expressed doubts. Opposition to the Mercosur Agreement had also increased from some national governments.

Doubts and veto right against the agreement

Regarding ongoing deforestation under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Chancellor Angela Merkel said a signing would not be a good signal under the current circumstances. France has vetoed it. The Austrian Vice Chancellor sees the Greenpeace leak as a confirmation of his fears “that climate and environmental protection is falling behind at Mercosur”. In addition, the interpretation of important questions to parliaments in internal circles is discussed.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian president: he hopes to change the EU's mind. (Source: imago images / Fotoarena)Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian president: he hopes to change the EU’s mind. (Source: Photo Arena / Image Images)

There are other critical points anyway. European farmers fear that opening up to South America will flood the EU with cheap products. Conversely, subsidized agricultural exports from here could also drive producers in the south from the market. The industry wants the agreement: it offers the opportunity to maintain climate standards. Former EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan saw it that way. How it can be controlled, however, is a matter of opinion.

A trip to Brazil should change the opinion of the EU

Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who is also the coordinator of the Amazonas Council, had said after the rejection of the draft treaty by many Members of the European Parliament that there was a lot of “noise” in the decision. It’s all a matter of diplomacy. “Let’s take it slow.” He sees environmental concerns as an excuse to reject the agreement.

In fact, there are economic interests behind it. “The agricultural lobby and green parties in Europe are very strong and there are elections in some European countries,” said Mourão. He assumes that the decision can still be changed. A trip to the Amazon region with European ambassadors in Brazil, scheduled for November, should contribute to this.

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