The Brazilian government has threatened to challenge proposed UK deforestation legislation at the World Trade Organisation, documents shared with City A.M. this morning reveal.
The proposed legislation seeks to prevent ‘large companies’ in the UK from using products grown on illegally deforested land.
When asked to disclose submissions by the Brazilian government to its consultations on the legislation, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs refused, arguing that doing so could harm international relations.
However, Greenpeace obtained documents via a Freedom of Information request to Brazil’s Foreign Ministry.
In its submissions, which raise objections to almost every element of the planned laws, the Brazil government strongly suggests the proposals, as they stand, could harm future trade deals.
It threatens to challenge the legislation under World Trade Organisation rules and argues that the law’s proposed focus on illegal deforestation would give countries with laxer environmental laws a competitive advantage.
Also, Brazil argues that its forest-protection forces are too underfunded to effectively enforce environmental laws or police illegal clearing.
Moreover, the Brazilian government said that requiring businesses to have robust checking systems in place would be “highly burdensome”.
Note from ambassador in UK
An accompanying note from Brazilian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Fred Arruda, requests that Brazil’s Foreign Ministry try to bring together other tropical countries which export agricultural commodities to jointly express their concern around the legislation, including Cameroon, Paraguay, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Deforestation in Brazil has soared over the last four years under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro.
“Land-grabbers and ranchers have been emboldened by Bolsonaro’s vocal support for economic development over conservation,” Greenpeace said in a statement this morning.
“At the same time, severe budget cuts and personnel changes have hampered environment agencies’ capacity to curb illegal deforestation, leading to an atmosphere of permissive impunity,” the organisation added.
Bolsonaro has also repeatedly sought to expand the definition of legal deforestation, whether by changes to land-grabbing laws which extend amnesty and land-titles to illegal clearances, by opening up Indigenous lands to farming, or by stripping status from protected areas.