Significant developments with the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement in recent weeks will reveal whether the possibility of the deal being placed in the deep-freeze is enough to unlock a change of course in Brazil.
After the European Parliament resolved not to ratify the deal in its current form, Trade Commissioner and Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis told Politico, that “they are engaging with Mercosur countries, seeing what kind of meaningful pre-commitments we can have from them to ensure successful ratification.” That DG Trade hears the concerns being voiced and is willing to address them is good news; however, the form and content of their commitments remains vague. More importantly, no acknowledgement has been made that the agreement is incompatible with the European Green Deal.
Fern facilitated exchanges of views between representatives from Brazilian civil society and policymakers − Commission, Member States and European Parliament − during the first two weeks of October. The civil society delegation, including representatives from the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), Observatorio do Clima and Imazon, brought a powerful, coordinated message. They highlighted the worsening situation in Brazil, the fact that signing the agreement would support Bolsonaro’s politics and the need for the EU to use its negotiation power and market leverage to reduce deforestation and stop impunity for environmental and human rights crimes.
It is clear that while the Commission and most Member States are still pursuing the trade agreement, they are seeking some kind of route to address deforestation concerns and human rights abuses.
They are setting the bar low, however. The Commission seems to put a lot of weight on Brazil’s Paris Agreement commitment – but Brazil’s target focusses on addressing illegal deforestation, which is not ambitious enough to mitigate climate and deforestation problems. Member States, such as France and Belgium, are developing concrete proposals to address flaws in the agreement’s sustainability provisions, and paid attention to Brazilian organisations’ demands.
The Commission is likely to spend the next eight months trying to find ways to allay deforestation & rights concerns, such that Member States will sign it. This may therefore be the last chance to use the ratification process to stop the declining situation in Brazil.