By Lisandra Paraguassu
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro canceled a meeting this week with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian – getting a haircut instead – amid deepening tensions over climate change policy that could endanger the EU-Mercosur trade accord.
Bolsonaro’s spokesman cited an agenda clash, even though the meeting with the French cabinet minister was canceled just one hour before. Bolsonaro went for a haircut at the time of the scheduled meeting with Le Drian on Monday, and broadcast it live on Facebook.
Neither the French foreign ministry nor Bolsonaro’s office immediately returned requests for comment.
Le Drian, who was on a tour of Latin American countries, said on Tuesday that he was carrying a message from French President Emmanuel Macron requesting implementation of the landmark Paris climate accord, respect of EU environmental and sanitary rules and protection of “sensitive” agricultural sectors.
Last month in Japan, Macron said he would not sign the recently negotiated trade deal between the European Union and the South American Mercosur trade bloc if Bolsonaro pulls Brazil out of the Paris climate accord.
France is worried about the impact on its vast agriculture industry from Mercosur imports that would not have to respect strict EU environmental regulations.
Since taking office in January, Bolsonaro has railed against the enforcement of environmental regulations in Brazil and announced intentions to develop the Amazon region, where deforestation of the world’s largest rainforest by loggers, ranchers and speculators has surged this year.
Bolsonaro had expected to hear criticism of his environmental policies from Le Drian.
“Today I will meet with the French minister, if I am not mistaken, to discuss the environment, and he should not get tough with me,” Bolsonaro told reporters on Monday morning.
“He will have to understand that the Brazilian government changed and that subservience we had in the past with other governments does not exist anymore,” Bolsonaro said.
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia, additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Will Dunham)