DUBLIN (Reuters) – As wildfires rage through the Brazilian Amazon, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said Dublin will vote against a trade deal between the European Union and South American trade bloc Mercosur unless Brazil takes action to protect the rainforest.
Varadkar said in a statement he was very concerned at the record levels of rainforest destruction, and said the Irish government would closely monitor Brazil’s environmental actions in the two years until the Mercosur deal is ratified.
“There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments,” he said.
Vast tracts of the Amazon are currently ablaze in what is known as the burning season. Environmentalists have blamed deforestation for an increase in fires and accuse Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro on cutting protection of an area deemed crucial in combating climate change.
Varadkar said Bolsonaro’s effort to blame non-government environmental organisations for the fires was “Orwellian”.
Ireland would need other EU states to help form a blocking minority if it wants to kill the deal, reached in June after 20 years of negotiations between the EU and the Mercosur countries of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
But the Irish government is under pressure to defend its beef farmers, already suffering from Britain’s looming EU exit and low prices, by seeking to ensure Mercosur countries to do flood the market with cheaper beef.
Varadkar adds his voice to growing international concern over the Amazon’s destruction. French President Emmanuel Macron wants the issue to be discussed at the G7 summit in Biarritz this weekend. Bolsonaro has rejected what he calls foreign interference in Brazil’s affair.
(Reporting by Graham Fahy; Editing by Angus MacSwan)