Mercosur free trade: European Parliament delivers a firm rebuke

Fire in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest © Tatsiana Hendzel/

Oct 22, 2020

For the past twenty years, the EU has been working on a free trade agreement with South America's Mercosur states. However, faced with the burning Amazon rainforest, the European Parliament has rejected the agreement in its present form. Rainforest Rescue is calling on the EU to rule out free trade with Brazil and its neighboring countries once and for all.

On October 7, members of the European Parliament voted 345 to 295 in favor of an amendment to EU trade policy, preventing the EU’s planned free trade agreement with the four South American Mercosur countries Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay from being ratified in its present form.

The MEPs’ demands included making the Paris Climate Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity key elements of the agreement. It must also ensure that free trade is sustainable and that the rights of indigenous peoples affected by deforestation, land grabbing and structural violence are respected.

The parts of the agreement published so far have their own chapters on these topics. However, their enforcement is not regulated, making them little more than declarations of intent. It is now up to the European Commission to renegotiate and improve the existing document with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Whether this will be possible is doubtful, as resistance is stirring in some EU member states, for economic reasons and above all in rejection of Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s policies.

A free trade agreement with the Brazilian government, which is ruthlessly driving the expansion of industrial agriculture at the expense of the Amazon rainforest and promoting the exploitation of nature reserves and indigenous land – and with it ultimately a genocide of the country’s indigenous people – is unthinkable for many.

Rainforest Rescue and other environmental, human rights and development organizations have been demanding for years that the agreement be scrapped. The free trade agreement would promote economic growth, which in this case would inevitably drive the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and other ecosystems.

Opaque and undemocratic

Overall, the processes of the European Commission are opaque and not overly democratic. It negotiated with the Mercosur states for twenty years, mostly behind closed doors. In late June 2019, the Commission finally reported that a comprehensive free trade and association agreement had been reached.

What the then EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called a “truly historic moment” – the creation of the world’s largest free trade area with 780 million people – raises many questions. Parts of the 7,000-page agreement are still under wraps. The full text of the agreement has not even been provided to the 705 elected members of the European Parliament.

The parts of the agreement published to date by the European Commission are made up of 27 individual documents (20 chapters, 2 sets of minutes and 5 annexes, online since July 12, 2019) and one chapter on intellectual property rights together with its annex (online since September 6, 2019).

Greenpeace has published a leaked copy of part of the negotiated association agreements on its website However, the leaked document does not include the associated annexes and minutes, which are likely to be hundreds of pages in total.

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