German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier on Monday (21 September) said he still believes ratification of an EU trade deal with South America is possible, despite European anger over deforestation in Brazil.
Even without reopening the text of the agreement, “there are some issues that we have to clarify, that we can clarify”, Altmaier said, after a meeting of EU trade ministers in Berlin.
A “sustainable solution” can be found, he said, urging his EU partners to not be divided on the hot-button issue.
The pact between the European Union and the South American Mercosur free trade bloc – Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay – was agreed in principle last year after two decades of wrangling.
France has to set out demands for ratification to proceed, which would crucially include respecting the targets of the Paris Agreement on fighting climate change.
The EU’s new trade boss Valdis Dombrovskis said it was “clear that we need to take those issues seriously”.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been a leading critic of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate change sceptic who scrapped restrictions on exploiting the Amazon’s vast riches.
Industrial powerhouse Germany meanwhile has backed the deal hoping to open new markets, especially for its auto companies.
Brussels, which handles trade matters for the EU’s 27 member states, “is seeking clear engagement” from the South Americans on sustainability concerns.
Environmental activists have slammed the deal for its lifting of trade barriers to Brazilian beef, which they argue will lead to increased deforestation.
Cattle farming is responsible for 80% of Amazon deforestation, according to the WWF environmental group.