Canada pushing for Amazon protections in free-trade talks with Brazil

Canada began trade negotiations last year with the four full members of the Mercosur group

Canada pushing for Amazon protections in free-trade talks with Brazil

Canada is forging ahead with trade talks with the South American Mercosur trading bloc, hoping to push Brazil to better protect the critical Amazon rainforest, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

The talks are continuing despite Brazil’s rejection of international funding to help fight fires in the Amazon, apparently over a personal spat with France’s President Emmanuel Macron.

Canada began trade negotiations last year with the four full members of the Mercosur group — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. There have been six rounds of talks, most recently in June.

Environment groups last week asked the federal government to abandon those talks in a bid to force Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to end the rapid deforestation experts say is partly to blame for the record number of fires burning in the Amazon this year.

Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh echoed them, saying in a statement that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “is putting the interests of rich corporations ahead of the fight against climate change by continuing free-trade negotiations with President Bolsonaro.”

A spokesman for International Trade Minister Jim Carr said the talks will continue “because we are committed to diversifying our trading partners” but that trade is not the only thing on the agenda.

ALSO READ: Canada offers $15M, water bombers on top of G7 help to fight Amazon wildfires

“As part of negotiations, Canada is seeking environmental provisions that would be more ambitious than the current (World Trade Organization) guidelines, and include sustainable forest management and combating illegal logging and related trade,” said Michael Jones.

During recent talks for the new North American free-trade agreement, Canada successfully lobbied to get a specific chapter on environmental protections included. However Canada was not able to persuade the United States to include a mention of climate change.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Tuesday any agreement with Brazil would have to have strong environmental protections, including commitments to reforestation.

Bolsonaro’s policies to use the resources of the Amazon in agriculture and mining have been blamed by activists for the fires, some of which might have started by farmers burning fields to prepare them for planting. Bolsonaro disagrees entirely, even accusing critics of lighting the fires themselves.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro fired the head of the Brazilian space agency after it released regular data on the forest that showed significantly faster deforestation since Bolsonaro took office on Jan. 1.

The policies of the Bolsonaro government, combined with the fires, led France’s Macron last week to threaten to block ratification of a trade deal Europe reached with the Mercosur bloc in June. Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar made a similar threat.

Canada is not following their lead.

Trudeau did work with Macron to get the Amazon fires onto the agenda of the annual G7 leaders’ summit in France over the weekend. The G7 countries announced a joint US$20-million commitment to help fight the fires, money Bolsonaro is currently rejecting.

Canada separately announced it would send $15 million as well as Canadian water bombers and other equipment if it’s needed. A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Brazil and other Amazon nations are currently assessing their needs but that the money has not been rejected by anyone.

Canada’s decision not to stop the trade talks did not sit well with Singh.

“Even as France and Ireland say they’ll block an EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil doesn’t honour its environmental responsibilities, Trudeau keeps negotiating with Bolsonaro as if the earth isn’t burning up around them,” his statement said.

“This is another disturbing example of Justin Trudeau saying and tweeting pretty things in public, when behind closed doors he’s doing business with the person responsible for the deforestation and devastation of the lungs of the planet.”

The Amazon fires are bringing the impact of climate change back into the headlines just days before the official start of a federal election campaign, in which climate change is expected to be front and centre.

Proof Strategies vice-president Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal aide, said that could bode well for the Liberals ”because they are seen to be stronger on the environment than the Conservatives.”

That belief is borne out in several recent polls, which have found the environment is one of the biggest issues for voters, and that respondents give the edge to the Liberals over the Conservatives on the subject.

Tzeporah Berman, international program director at environmental advocacy group Stand.Earth, said Canadians have known about the importance of the Amazon for decades and there is no doubt the fires there are contributing to their concern about climate as they ponder their election choices.

“Fires aren’t supposed to happen there,” she said. “It’s a rainforest.”

At 5.5 million square kilometres, the Amazon rainforest covers an area more than five times the size of Ontario. About two-thirds of it lies in Brazil but it extends into several neighbouring countries, including Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

The region is known as the “lungs of the planet” because it produces one-fifth of Earth’s oxygen supply. It also works as a significant carbon sink, absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide every year.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

Serving alcohol has been altered in the Central Okanagan Public Schools policy regarding rental of school facilities for after-school hours events. (Contributed)
Alcohol option opened up at Central Okanagan school facilities rented for events

Central Okanagan Board of Education retains final approval for after-hours event approvals

Voting day for the upcoming Central Okanagan Board of Education by-election is June 26. (Contributed)
Central Okanagan school board election set for June 26

Kelowna voters will go the polls to fill vacant Kelowna trustee seat

Two bikes that were stolen after a West Kelowna parking garage was looted on April 3. Photo: Crime Stoppers Central Okanagan
Parking garage looted in West Kelowna

A car was broken into and six storage lockers were ransacked

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a quick roundup of the stories that made headlines across the Okanagan, from April 11 to 16

Penticton bylaw officers tore down a “pretty significantly sized” homeless camp underneath the bridge near Riverside Drive Friday, April 16 morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton bylaw tears down ‘significantly sized’ homeless camp under bridge

Many residents had made complaints about the camp before it was torn down

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Ford F-350s have been targeted in the North Okanagan by auto thieves since February 2021, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP data shows. (Gene J. Puskar - The Canadian Press/AP file)
Auto thieves target older Ford F-350s in Vernon: RCMP

Vernon Mounties remind all motorists no vehicle is immune to auto crime

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read