Mercosur trade deal questioned amid growing climate concerns

‘Rocky ride’ for pact between EU and South America if Amazon deforestation persists

The Mercosur trade deal between South American countries and the EU faces "a rocky ride" if there is a failure to honour climate commitments and to address ongoing deforestation, according to the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Speaking following a meeting of EU trade ministers in Berlin, Mr Varadkar highlighted Brazil's failures in both respects.

"I think it's fair to say that among [EU]governments and trade ministers there is growing concern and scepticism about whether we can approve and ratify and implement Mercosur when Brazil is not fully honouring its obligations under the Paris climate accord, and when we see very extensive deforestation in the Amazon."

Mr Varadkar said a growing number of ministers were saying that before any ratification and implementation “we are going to need to see cast-iron and enforceable guarantees from South American governments that they are going to honour their obligations on climate action and on protecting the Amazon”.


He added: “We don’t want a trade agreement that actually encourages more deforestation and more damage to our environment.”

Mr Varadkar said he was struck by how many trade ministers were of like mind on the issue.

“You would expect that at an agriculture ministers’ meeting for obvious reasons. But this was a trade ministers’ meeting . . . I think Mercosur is going to be in for a rocky ride if South American governments don’t convince us that they are serious about protecting our natural environment and reducing emissions.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel indicated last month she has "considerable doubts" over whether to back the trade deal due to worsening deforestation in the Amazon,

Some 1,359sq km of jungle were cleared in August, an area larger than Los Angeles, according to space research agency Inpe – the fifth highest month on record, though 21 per cent lower than August 2019.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times