Analysis. The European Union moved forward with plans for an EU-MERCOSUR treaty over the protests of 340 European and Latin American organizations who say Brazil’s anti-indigenous and planet-killing policies should have stopped the deal.

On South American trade deal, Italy sides with Bolsonaro over the Amazon

What about the Green New Deal, all the appeals to protect the Amazon, the complaints against the “villain” Bolsonaro? It was all just words. In the presence of the interests tied to the trade agreement between the European Union and the MERCOSUR countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), everything else, as if by magic, is suddenly relegated to second place.

This path was already taken when the treaty was signed on June 28 last year: by signing it, the EU Commission ignored the requests by 340 European and Latin American organizations which, alarmed by the devastating environmental and anti-indigenous policies being implemented in Brazil, urged the EU to send “an unequivocal signal” to the Bolsonaro government by “immediately” suspending the negotiations until there is a decisive change of approach in regard to the fight against deforestation, among other things.

However, the treaty is likely to pass unchanged through the current revision phase as well, which should be concluded in March, after which it will be ready for the process of ratification by the parliaments of each country, a necessary process for the treaty to enter into force, with the consequent start of a gradual process of opening up of trade relations between the two blocs.

The treaty is, however, encountering resistance on this path: Ireland has threatened to refuse to ratify it because of the impact on the environment and its national agriculture, Belgium’s Wallonia region has expressed its full opposition and Austria has gone even further by passing a bill in Parliament intended to force the government to veto the approval of the agreement.

Even more, the strong opposition from the French agricultural sector led Argentinian President Alberto Fernández, who is worried about the repercussions on Argentina’s agricultural industry, to sound out the Macron government during his visit to Europe for an opportunity to renegotiate the treaty.

It is very troubling that there has been no objection from the Italian side. Quite the contrary—as Deputy Foreign Minister Marina Sereni made clear when speaking on February 6 at the “Latin America between Inequalities and Social Tensions” conference, the Italian government “is fighting to launch [the EU-MERCOSUR agreement] definitively.”

The Stop TTIP Italia campaign had sounded the alarm a long time ago, denouncing in particular the risk that an increase in beef exports from Brazil would lead to a rise in deforestation and fires in the Amazon, as well as the weakening of controls on products coming from countries where, in addition to GMOs, hundreds of pesticides prohibited in Europe are circulating freely, and the very limited protection for Italian products with a protected designation of origin (only 55 of which are protected under the treaty out of more than 290). The campaign reiterated its concerns on Tuesday in a press conference at the Chamber of Deputies, where it once again denounced the Italian government’s backsliding in the matter of the trade liberalization treaties with the USA and MERCOSUR.

There was also severe criticism from Rifondazione Communista, according to whom this treaty is both “lifeblood for the interests of agribusiness” and “fuel for the fires in the Amazon”: “If the PD stands with Bolsonaro, we stand with the indigenous peoples and the movements against climate change.”

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