THE TUC HAS URGED the UK government to shun trade talks with Brazil while Jair Bolsonaro is still in power, to “avoid legitimising the far-right president”.
The call comes as the TUC publishes a new report, which documents significant threats to workers’ rights under Bolsonaro’s government – as well as racism, LGBT+ hate, attacks on women’s rights and the natural environment, and the escalating threat to democracy.
Earlier this year, the International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) released its annual Global Rights Index, which rated Brazil as one of the worst countries in the world to be a worker – warning that trade unionists in Brazil are now being violently targeted, with two having been murdered this year.
The UK government has previously indicated the next round of trade talks it enters will include Brazil – this is set to be around the same time that the country gears up for its election in October 2022.
Bolsonaro has threatened to undermine or even abandon the election scheduled for next year – and his rhetoric has escalated in recent months.
The TUC says that because of the threat to a free and fair election, and Bolsonaro’s appalling record on human rights, labour rights and environmental protections, the government should make clear that any prospect of trade talks with Brazil is off the table while the current president is still in power.
Flawed approach to trade
According to the TUC, Brazil would be just the latest example of the UK government rushing into trade deals with some of the worst countries for workers’ rights – which have so far included five out of the 10 worst offenders worldwide.
The TUC points out that on the government’s own website there is tacit praise for Jair Bolsonaro’s approach to trade, which notes the “benefits” for exporters under his regime.
The union body says that the UK will be at odds with other international countries if it goes ahead and engages in trade talks with Brazil – pointing to the example of France, which has said it will reject the EU’s trade deal involving Brazil as well as other countries in the MERCOSUR trading bloc.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Trade deals can be a vehicle to improve workers’ rights and protections, while providing new jobs and investment for communities that need it most. But the UK government’s trade policy has not put working people first – whether home or away.
“Ministers have rushed into trade deals with some of the worst regimes in the world for working people, like Colombia and Turkey. And now it looks like they will do the same with Brazil.
“It’s vital our government does not legitimise the far-right Bolsonaro with trade talks on the global stage, especially in the year of an election. It’s time for ministers to do the right thing, and make it clear that trade talks are off the table while Bolsonaro is still in power.”
* Read The Challenge to Democracy in Brazil here.
* The ITUC Global Rights Index is available to download here.
* Source: Trades Union Congress