Leo Varadkar says Ireland will vote against Mercosur deal unless Amazon forests are protected

Leo Varadkar says Ireland will vote against Mercosur deal unless Amazon forests are protected

"We will monitor closely Brazil’s environmental actions."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Ireland will vote against the Mercosur trade deal with South American countries if action is not taken by Brazil to protect the Amazon rainforest and maintain its environmental commitments.

Earlier this year, an agreement was reached between the European Union and the South American trade bloc Mercosur regarding free trade, but the deal has yet to be ratified by the EU.

Varadkar's comments come as rainforest fires rage in the Amazon and international pressure grows on Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for initially failing to protect the rainforest and for his reaction since the fires began.

He described Bolsonaro's attempts to blame the fires on environmental NGOs as "Orwellian" and voiced his concern at the record levels of destruction of the Amazonian forests by fire.

"There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments," Varadkar said in a statement.

The Taoiseach added that unless action is taken to protect the forests by the Brazilian government, Ireland will be forced to consider its position.

"The Mercosur deal is two years away from a vote on approval in Europe. During the course of these two years, we will monitor closely Brazil’s environmental actions," he said.

"There is no way we can tell Irish and European farmers to use fewer pesticides, less fertilizer, embrace biodiversity and plant more of their land and expect them to do it, if we do not make trade deals contingent on decent environmental, labour and product standards. The political agreement on Mercosur does that. We’ll monitor closely if they mean it."

The Mercosur Deal has proved controversial with the agricultural sector in Ireland with farmers fearing the influx of South American beef will undercut Ireland's beef industry.

Others argue it will also facilitate access to beef which has been reared on rainforest land that has been cleared for farming purposes.