Slow Food Europe and Slow Food Brazil signed an open letter asking the European Union to immediately halt free trade agreement negotiations with the Mercosur bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay). 340 civil society signatory organizations believe that it is a critical step to take to prevent deteriorating human rights and environmental situation in Brazil. The letter is addressed to presidents of the EU institutions ahead of the ministerial-level meeting next week in Brussels where EU and Mercosur foreign ministers aim to finalize the negotiations.
Slow Food Europe and other organizations involved believe that signing a trade deal with Brazil’s current government would undermine the human rights and environmental principles that the EU upholds.
Since Jair Bolsonaro became Brazil’s President at the beginning of 2019, his government has dismantled environmental protections, tolerated incursions by armed invaders on Indigenous Peoples’ lands, and overseen a dramatic rise of deforestation rates in the Amazon, undermining years of progress. Human rights groups also warn about increased human rights violations, attacks on minorities, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ, and traditional communities.
Slow Food, along with hundreds other organizations, calls on EU to send an unequivocal message to President Bolsonaro that the EU will refuse to negotiate a trade deal with Brazil until there is an end to human rights violations, strict measures to end further deforestation and concrete commitments to implement the Paris Agreement. Large-scale beef production is the biggest cause of global deforestation, and forests in Brazil have been destroyed to make way for cattle.
The EU serves as a huge market for Brazilian soy and beef, the production of which drives deforestation on a vast scale. The EU is also Brazil’s second largest trading partner, and taken together, its Member States are Brazil’s largest source of foreign direct investment. Therefore, Slow Food Europe along with other organizations believes that the EU has a responsibility to address human rights and environmental injustices taking place in Brazil and it should use its leverage to support civil society, human rights, and the environment. The EU and its Member States are bound by the Treaty of the European Union to respect and promote human rights as an overarching objective in its dealings with other countries.
In the past, the EU has suspended trade preferences with countries involved in human rights violations, such as Myanmar and the Philippines. The EU has also restricted imports of products whose production is related to human rights violations in the case of conflict minerals.