Brazil officials, Bolsonaro's son meet with Trump to discuss Amazon fires
By Alexandra Alper and Jake Spring
WASHINGTON/BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's foreign minister and President Jair Bolsonaro's son met with U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday to discuss the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest, although no concrete measures to deal with the blazes were announced.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Eduardo Bolsonaro said there could be an announcement later, potentially after his return to Brasilia on Saturday and consultations with his father.
Bolsonaro has said he will appoint Eduardo as Brazil's ambassador to the United States, but the controversial nomination has yet to be sent to the Senate for voting and confirmation.
The far-right Brazilian president sees the vast Amazon area as ripe for economic development and crucial to Brazilian sovereignty. He has been critical of what he has called interference, mostly from European countries, preferring to enter into potential talks for help fighting the fires with those he sees as allies, such as Trump and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.
The talks with Trump largely focused on topics beyond the fires' scope, including trade, according to Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo.
"(Trump) reiterated various things: a willingness to work with us to sustainably develop the Amazon, a huge interest in a broad trade agreement with us," Araujo said.
The United States, Chile, Israel and Ecuador have already offered support in fighting the worst rash of fires in the Amazon rainforest since 2010, the country's joint military chief told reporters in Brazil earlier.
The number of fires receded after Brazil's military joined the firefighting efforts last week, although the latest statistics from Brazilian space research agency INPE showed a new spike. On Thursday, 1,255 fires were registered in the Amazon, the highest number for a single day since Aug. 17, according to INPE data.
'OUR DEAR MACRON'
President Bolsonaro tweeted on Friday that he had also spoken with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the fires, a conversation which he said reaffirmed Brazil's sovereignty over the rainforest.
He said that according to the European External Action Service, the EU diplomatic wing, satellite images show that fires in Brazil were lower year-to-date compared to the same period in 2018. Reuters was not immediately able to verify that.
Such data would directly contradict figures from INPE that show fires from Jan. 1 to Aug. 29 were up 77% compared to the same period a year ago.
"I am ready to talk with some people, except our dear Macron, unless he apologizes about our sovereignty over the Amazon," Bolsonaro said earlier in the day, referring to French President Emmanuel Macron.
Earlier this week Bolsonaro said he would not accept an offer of at least $20 million from the Group of Seven rich nations to help fight the Amazon fires unless Macron withdrew what he called "insults" against him.
The two leaders have become embroiled in a public war of words over Brazil's handling of the Amazon fires and the international response.
Eduardo Bolsonaro told reporters outside the White House that Brazil could not accept an offer like Macron's.
"This isn't aid that comes with good intentions. It's aid that comes with other interests," he said. "This would disrespect Brazilians. It would subjugate our Brazilian-ness."
Brazil is also facing economic pressure over its perceived slow response to the surge in fires and deforestation. On Friday, the asset management arm of Nordea <NDAFI.HE>, one of the Nordic region's biggest banks, said it was suspending purchases of Brazilian government bonds.
Norwegian pension fund KLP, which has $80 billion in assets under management, said this week it had contacted U.S. companies Bunge <BG.N>, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland <ADM.N> asking for "concrete action" to protect the rainforest.
In statements to Reuters on Friday, Bunge and ADM reaffirmed their commitments to keep deforestation out of their supply chains. Cargill did not immediately respond to request for comment.
On Thursday, VF Corp <VFC.N>, maker of Timberland, Vans and other apparel brands, said it would stop buying leather from Brazil over environmental concerns.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper in Washingtion, Jake Spring in Brasilia and Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Additional reporting by Jamie McGeever and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia, Eduardo Simoes in Sao Paulo and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Leslie Adler and Rosalba O'Brien)