Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo gestures during a news conference at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, July 2, 2019.
Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo gestures during a news conference at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, July 2, 2019.

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's foreign minister said Tuesday that protecting the environment "is not only a European interest" after France said it would ratify a free-trade deal between the European Union and the South American bloc Mercosur only if Brazil respects its commitment to reduce deforestation.
 
The EU and Mercosur last Friday finalized, after two decades of negotiations, an agreement that would integrate the blocs into a market of 800 million people. But the deal must still be ratified by the legislatures of the countries involved.
 
The French government said Tuesday that it was yet not ready to ratify the pact, saying Brazil must "respect its commitments" to protecting its rainforest. Before the deal was finalized, French President Emmanuel Macron had said France would not sign if Brazil did not continue within the Paris climate agreement.
 
Brazilian foreign minister Ernesto Araujo responded to France's comments by saying: "No country is ready to ratify (the agreement) from the constitutional point of view. It must be still submitted to parliament and approved."
 
"Most European countries use more agrotoxins per hectare then Brazil. The agricultural health crisis of mad cow disease began in Europe because of the poor feeding of livestock," Araujo said at a news conference in the capital, Brasilia. "This issue is not only a European interest, but ours" as well.
 
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has raised fears among environmentalists by promising to open up the Amazon to further development and because of his close ties to the country's agro-industry lobby.

FILE - In the Atlantic Forest in Bahia, fire and deforestation of hill slopes are forbidden by Brazilian law, but law enforcement is ineffective. (Credit: IESB archive)

 
A survey by the National Institute of Space Research that was published Tuesday showed that Amazon deforestation grew 60% in June compared to the same month last year, the worst data since 2016.
 
Mercosur is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

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