Amazon fires could burn Brazil's bid to join OECD rich nations club
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Uncontrolled fires sweeping
through the Amazon rainforest could scuttle Brazil's chances of
becoming a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD), worried business leaders said on Friday.
The surge in fires has alarmed environmentalists who blame
right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro for undermining protection
of the world's largest tropical rainforest and turning a blind
eye to illegal deforestation by farmers and land grabbers.
The wildfires have sparked international criticism of
Bolsonaro's handling of the destruction of the rainforest, which
produces more than 20% of the oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere
and is considered a vital brake on climate change.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the crisis should be
raised at a summit of G7 leaders in France this weekend, at
which he will push for all members to sign a charter on
"The situation is very serious," said Rubens Barbosa, head
of foreign trade at the Sao Paulo industry lobby FIESP.
Brazil asked to join the Paris-based club of 37 developed
nations in 2017, seeking a seal of approval required by many
But Brazil's entry depends on OECD members agreeing that the
country is complying with a series of recommendations, many of
them environmental standards.
With the current lack of concern for the environment under
the Bolsonaro government, its OECD membership is at risk, said
Gabriel Petrus, executive director of the International Chamber
of Commerce in Brazil.
"We think it will be a challenge now," Petrus said. He
called on the Minister of Environment Ricardo Salles to take
immediate action to reinforce protection of the forests to curb
the fires and improve Brazil's image abroad.
"Otherwise, we will not get approved to join the OECD," he
Salles will travel to Paris in September to attend a meeting
of the OECD's Environment Policy Committee where he is expected
to be questioned on Brazil's policies.
Bolsonaro has vowed to open up the Amazon region to more
agriculture and mining, even on indigenous reservations that are
seen as the most protected parts of the rainforest.
His government also plans to pave road through pristine
parts of the Amazon, which would open up access to illegal
loggers, ranchers and wildcat miners, environmentalists fear.
Business leaders in the farm sector as well as the pulp and
paper industry have urged Bolsonaro to change his policies on
the environment to avoid the threat of boycotts of their
products in foreign consumer markets.
Petrus said large Brazilian companies that are major
exporters of food and cosmetics are already complying with the
best environmental practices.
"The deforestation we are seeing is being done illegally by
farmers and land grabbers and must be investigated," he said.
Amid growing global condemnation, Bolsonaro said on Friday
he may mobilize the army to combat the wildfires.
Stung by a global outcry over the destruction of the Amazon
rainforest, his government launched a diplomatic offensive to
persuade the international community of its environmental
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle
Editing by Daniel Flynn and Sandra Maler)
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