Macron Leads Pressure on Brazil Over Amazon Fires

In this Aug. 20, 2019 drone photo released by the Corpo de Bombeiros de Mato Grosso, brush fires burn in Guaranta do Norte municipality, Mato Grosso state, Brazil. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, a federal agency monitoring deforestation and wildfires, said the country has seen a record number of wildfires this year. (Photos by Corpo de Bombeiros de Mato Grosso via AP)

(AFP) – France’s Emmanuel Macron led a growing wave of international pressure on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest Friday, telling him Paris would block efforts to seal a major trade deal.

The issue will be high on the agenda when global leaders meet for the G7 summit Saturday in the French resort of Biarritz, where they are also set to tackle global trade wars and the Iran nuclear standoff.

Just days before hosting the summit, Macron called for urgent talks on the “international crisis” in the world’s largest rainforest, saying leaders would hammer out “concrete measures” to tackle it.

But his remarks drew a sharp retort from the Brazilian leader who fumed over his “colonialist mentality”, prompting Macron to hit back by calling Bolsonaro a liar over a June pledge to fight global warming.

“Given the attitude of Brazil over the last weeks, the president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka (G20) summit,” a French presidential official said.

As a result, France would oppose a trade deal between the EU and South America’s Mercosur nations, effectively killing any chance of it being ratified, he said.

Moves to prioritize the Amazon wildfires on the G7 agenda won backing from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting that the fires were “heartbreaking” and offering help to put them out.

So far this year, there have been 76,720 forest fires in Brazil – the highest number since 2013, official figures show, with more than half in the Amazon rainforest.

“The Amazon rainforest – the lungs which produce 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire,” Macron tweeted late Thursday.

And on Friday, he expressed hope the G7 would act to ensure speedy reforestation of areas devastated by fire.

“We are going to try and mobilize everyone to raise funding for reforestation as quickly as possible,” Macron told the French youth news website Konbini, saying he wanted to secure commitments from fellow leaders, including Trump, ahead of the U.N.’s Global Climate Action Summit in New York next month.

But in a sign of some of the difficulties, Germany said Macron’s proposal to block the Mercosur deal was “not the right response.”

“Failing to conclude the Mercosur agreement would not contribute to reducing the clearing of the rainforest in Brazil,” a government spokesman told AFP.

Finland, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council, also weighed in on the crisis, suggesting it and the EU “urgently look into the option of banning the import of Brazilian beef.”

© Agence France-Presse
by Valérie LEROUX

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