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  • Cattle are seen near burnt trees in Jamanxim National Forest, in the Amazon near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sep. 10, 2019.

    Cattle are seen near burnt trees in Jamanxim National Forest, in the Amazon near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, Sep. 10, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 September 2019

Brazil's Chargé d'Affaires in Washington reaffirmed that what happens in the Amazon is just a domestic matter.

The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs held Tuesday a hearing on the fires at the Brazilian Amazon, an event which analyzed the relation between trade liberation and environment concerns in the context of the Presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right former army capitan who is has been in office since January.

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“Protecting the Amazon is vital for the health of our planet. The Amazon Rainforest is the most biodiverse region in the world. It also contains approximately one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply... It stores billions of tons of carbon dioxide, a portion of which enters the atmosphere when deforestation occurs, potentially accelerating global climate change," Albio Sires, the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security and Trade chairman, said.

During the hearing, the Brazilian economist Monica de Bolle criticized Bolsonaro's management of the Amazonian crisis and stressed the importance of introducing environmental regulations in any trade agreement.

"Any agreement to be signed with Brazil, whether it is a trade facilitation deal or something more ambitious, must contain those normative."

Brazil's Chargé d'Affaires in Washington, Nestor Forster, said the Amazon issues should be discussed “without incendiary passions”, for introducing environmental duties in business matters could be counterproductive.

"The environment cannot be used as punishment. It will bounce back to the Amazon. It would imply creating restrictions which might prevent companies from investing there," Foster told local media Folha de Sao Paulo.

According to the Earth Innovation Institute president Daniel Nepstad, however, trade and agricultural activities do have an impact on deforestation.​​​​​​​

During the hearing, he recalled that some international companies base their activities upon the consumption of products which are often not clearly identified as Amazonian products.

In fact, since the crisis of the Amazonian fires broke out, some big brands have already announced the suspension of their purchases of Brazilian leather and soy, for example.

For its part, the U.S. democratic lawmakers reiterated that what happens in the Amazon concerns all countries.

"Brazil is a sovereign country. I respect that. However, environmental policy is no longer a domestic issue but an international affair," Congressman Dean Phillips said, adding that "we should use any available tool to protect the world."​​​​​​​

Although diplomat Forster acknowledged that the concern for the global environment is now a widespread ​​​​​​​issue, he repeatedly recalled Bolsonaro's assertions that natural resources in Brazil are "a country's sovereign decision."

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