EU-Mercosur trade deal threatens Indigenous lands, activist says

The deal was put on hold due to concerns over deforestation
calendar icon 30 June 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

A planned free trade deal between the European Union and South American bloc Mercosur risks increasing demand for farm produce from Brazil at the expense of Indigenous people's land and rights, Reuters reported, citing a leading activist on Thursday.

"We are against this agreement," Dinamam Tuxa, the coordinator of Brazil's largest umbrella Indigenous organization, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) told Reuters in an interview.

"It may be very difficult to stop but we want to make our proposals on prior consent and territorial rights of Indigenous people."

The European Commission struck a trade deal with the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in 2019. Now the Commission and some EU member states have raised the possibility of reviving it after it was put on hold largely because of EU concerns over Amazon deforestation.

Tuxa, who will meet EU officials and lawmakers over the coming days, said the deal, even with a possible annex on deforestation and sustainable development, did not guarantee protection of Indigenous people's rights, despite them being enshrined in an International Labour Organization convention.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples also requires them to be consulted to obtain free, prior and informed consent on policies or projects affecting them.

Tuxa said there was no mechanism of monitoring and oversight to protect ecosystems, saying the trade agreement was based on an economic model that inherently damaged them.

"When it comes to money, all the COP (UN climate talks) and other sustainability targets are forgotten," he said.

The Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, has said there is an opportunity for talks after last year's electoral defeat of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro whose policies contributed to a peak in Amazon deforestation.

However, there is no guarantee talks with successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will succeed.

Lula has promised fully to recognise Indigenous land, but faces a backlash in Congress from Bolsonaro allies.

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