Merkel and Johnson to Macron: No to blocking EU trade deal with Brazil

French President Emmanuel Macron got out over his skis Friday when he made a surprise announcement as the G7 weekend began. The summit’s host was so freaked out over the burning Amazon rainforest in Brazil that blocking an EU trade deal with Brazil sounded like a reasonable response. The leaders of Germany and the U.K. disagreed.

As I was finishing a post on Friday about Macron’s panic over reports on the rainforest fires in Brazil and Macron’s attempts to meddle into how President Bolsonaro was managing the fires, the French president decided to throw fuel on the fire, so to speak. Macron escalated his bullying of Bolsonaro and announced his intention to block an EU trade deal during the G7 meeting. Suddenly the Mercosur deal was thrown into the mix.

Germany’s Angela Merkel, a climate change alarmist herself, jumped on the bandwagon when Macron was very publicly attacking Bolsonaro. She, too, thought that the topic of climate change should be at the top of the G7 agenda. The host of the G7 sets the agenda, after all, and Macron has been deeply unpopular in France. His chances of re-election are not looking good right now so it’s not very surprising that Macron wanted to take the opportunity to ingratiate himself with the environmental radicals in his country. Merkel has done the same for several years in Germany so her agreement with Macron wasn’t a surprise, either.

A free trade agreement reached in 2019 at the G20 Osaka summit, after twenty years of negotiations, the European Union–Mercosur free trade agreement is the largest trade deal struck by both the EU and Mercosur. The agreement has to be signed and ratified before it goes into force. As it turns out, Angela Merkel is not so blinded by her beliefs in the urgency of climate change that she is willing to sacrifice such a big trade deal. Imagine that. While Macron was claiming that Bolsonaro lied to him in Osaka, Merkel said, hey, hold up there, buddy. Not so fast. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced his objection to Macron’s meddling, too.

“There are all sorts of people who will take any excuse at all to interfere with trade and to frustrate trade deals and I don’t want to see that,” Johnson told reporters.

Late on Friday, a spokesman for Merkel said not concluding the trade deal with the Mercosur countries of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay was “not the appropriate answer to what is happening in Brazil now.”

“The non-conclusion of the Mercosur agreement would not help to reduce forest destruction in Brazil,” the spokesman added.

The opposition from these two brought about a statement from Macron’s office that Merkel was briefed on his position.

An official at Macron’s office said the French leader had later explained his position to Merkel. “It is something the president explained to the Chancellor so she understands the position he took yesterday and that’s something she understood very well,” the official said.

Yes, she understood what Macron was saying. She just didn’t agree with his level of hysteria. She certainly wasn’t about to agree to tank an important trade deal when the German economy is floundering with a shrinking GDP and slipping into negative growth.

Blocking the deal likely wouldn’t have gone over favorably at the G7 summit anyway. Macron needs other member states to form a blocking minority to veto the deal. Brazil isn’t a member of the G7. President Bolsonaro is not in attendance to speak up against a move that smacks of blatant political opportunism by Macron. Macron’s approval has increased slowly in recent weeks but using this subject to improve his standing with voters was a bad idea that was quickly stopped.