U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy has teamed with fellow Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii in leading a group of Democratic senators in demanding a halt to trade negotiations with Brazil in protest of that nation’s environmental policies related to the Amazon.
In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the senators said trade negotiations with Brazil must be postponed until President Jair Bolsonaro enforces his country’s environmental laws and regulations to protect the Amazon from illegal deforestation. They also charged Brazil’s largest meatpacker, JBS, with sourcing beef from cattle raised on illegally deforested land.
“The images of the rainforest ablaze are striking,” the senators wrote. “Brazil’s own National Institute for Space Research reported that there have been 58,614 fires in the Brazilian Amazon so far this year, a 105% increase from 2018. There is clear evidence that cattle ranchers, farmers, and others involved in the for-profit development of the rainforest are largely responsible for this destruction. This is an international crisis with national security implications for the United States. The Amazon accounts for twenty-five percent of the carbon dioxide that global forests absorb each year, and its trees and plants impact global rainfall patterns, including those in the United States.”
The senators also called on Lighthizer to resolve the U.S.-China trade conflict, noting that China is now relying increasingly on Brazil for its beef and soybeans imports.
“As a result of the trade war, the volume of American soybean exports to China dropped 74% in 2018, and Brazil has rushed to fill in the gap,” the senators stated. “Brazil now supplies 75% of China’s soybean imports, 23% more than before the trade war. In the absence of serious environmental protections, the increase in Brazil’s soybean industry has led to an increase in clearing of the Amazon for more land.”