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Weekend of wondering.

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

The EU Mercosul Trade deal. On Friday the 28th of June this year at the G20 summit in Japan a ‘Historic’ Trade deal was announced. This deal was between two trading blocks which represent a quarter of the world's GDP and roughly 780 million people, who will now benefit from Italian Wines, Argentine Steaks, Brazilian Orange Juice and German Cars.

The press last weekend made it very clear that this deal was decades in the making. However there had been a spanner thrown in the works when Macron threatened not to sign it if Jair Bolsonaro withdraws from the Paris Climate Agreement. To soften their relations Bolsonaro invited Macron to visit the Amazon, and this is what has got me wondering about the legitimacy of the massive trade deal in the Brazilian context.

When Bolsonaro arrived at the G20 (after the ‘hicup’ of the cocaine on the plane incident) he released a rather peculiar video in which he is demonstrating the magical properties of a mineral called Niobium. Granted Bolsonaro is sort of playing the role of a street vendor on the beach selling you a necklace, which was ridiculed by many on social media and became a meme very quickly. However if we start to pull back the layers of this video there is an acute sense of the danger that Bolsonaro and Niobium pose.

Niobium was discovered in Brazil in the 1930’s and was originally used in the production of Steel. In more recent years with the massive acceleration of the tech industry it has been used to make products like capacitors, super-conductors and medical implants. Brazil has the largest reserver of Niobium, which currently sits in the states of Minas Gerais, Goias and shockingly has recently been discovered in the state Amazonas. Since Lula’s government the mining production of Niobium has increased dramatically with the European Union being the third biggest buyer since 2000. With the recent ‘Steel Wars’ between the US and China (the second two biggest buyers) one has to wonder how Niobium will fit in to the new ‘Historic’ Trade Deal. At the G20 Trump also posed stiff tariffs on steal from the EU. So this begs the question.. Would the EU go looking for materials from elsewhere? In one of the world's most diverse ecosystems, what are the implications in regards to the environment? With the recent disasters involving extractive industries in the State of Minas, what could ramping up production mean? What are the implications in regards to encroachment on the indigenous populations of the Amazon?

These are all questions I’ve thought about this weekend, that non of the press seem to be asking. As a society we have to keep posing serious questions about trade deals and how they could potentially be detrimental to the environment and/or the local people. #Brazil #EU #EuropeanUnion #trade #G20 #US #China #Bolsonaro #LatinAmerica

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