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Labour accuses Trade Minister Conor Burns of 'cosying up' to Brazilian government amid Amazon wildfire crisis

3 min read

Trade minister Conor Burns has been slammed for "cosying up" to the Brazilian government amid growing criticism of the country's response to the Amazon wildfires.

Shadow Trade Minister Barry Gardiner said his opponent had failed to raise concerns about the regime's reaction to fires engulfing swathes of rainforest because he was "posing for pictures" with officials.

During an official visit to the country on Wednesday, Mr Burns described Deputy Economy Minister Marcos Troyjo as "superb" after the pair met to discuss "expanding trade and investment partnerships".

And in a further post on Twitter, Mr Burns shared pictures of himself drinking champagne with Brazilian officials after signing a new deal to "facilitate ease of business" between the two countries.

But Mr Gardiner hit out at the trade visit, saying: “While Bolsonaro lets agribusinesses burn the Amazon, this week a UK government minister has been busy cosying up to the Brazilian president’s officials.

“Instead of posing for photographs with far-right Brazilian politicians, ministers should be calling on Brazil to do everything they can to protect the rainforest.

“The government must insist that Brazil honours environmental clauses in existing trade agreements and fulfils their commitments under the Paris Agreement.”

Responding to the comments, Mr Burns said: "I am proud to serve in a Government which has set the most ambitious agenda to reduce carbon emissions in history. Sharing the technologies that protect the planet in which we are global leaders will be a key part of our trade agenda."

The Department of International Trade added: "We're clear: The UK remains committed to protecting the world's rainforests and will continue to do so. Trade Minister Conor Burns raised this commitment in meetings with the Brazilian government this week."


Elsewhere, Jeremy Corbyn urged the Prime Minister to "put pressure" on the Brazilian government after senior members of his shadow cabinet wrote to Mr Johnson asking him to raise the issue at the upcoming G7 summit.

"Bolsanaro has allowed and indeed encouraged these fires to take place, to clear the rain forest in order that the land can then be used for actually very short term agriculture production and after that it becomes desert," he said.

"That is what's happening to the rainforest. The rainforest is an international resource, it's a carbon sink that we all need and rely on.

He added: "And so we, the Labour party, the shadow cabinet, have written to the prime minister to say: put all the pressure you can on President Bolsonaro to deal with this issue, and when you're at the G7 summit raise this issue because it is one of global concern."

Speaking on Friday afternoon, Boris Johnson said he agreed with French President Macron's description of the fires as an "international crisis".

"I passionately share the view of Emmanuel Macron, and one of the things I am going to be raising at the G7 is the horrific loss of habitats and species around the world," he told the BBC.

"We are going through an extinction of diversity, of biodiversity across the planet, we are down to about 15,000 lions left in the wild, perhaps 3,000 tigers in India, the population of elephants has declined at about 8% a year.

He added: "What we in the UK want to do is lead the world now in setting targets for the retention, the maintenance, and the improvement of habitat, and stop this terrible loss of biodiversity, so set targets for keeping that we inherited on this planet."

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