Brussels (AFP) - Hundreds of activist groups on Tuesday urged the EU to "immediately halt negotiations" for a trade deal with Mercosur countries over Brazil's alleged harm of its indigenous people and rainforests.
The appeal from more than 340 groups could further complicate the European Union's bid to conclude 20 years of talks for a free trade agreement with Brazil and its Mercosur partners Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
In an open letter, Greenpeace as well as an array of NGOs across Europe and Latin America reminded the EU it had previously suspended trade preferences with Myanmar and the Philippines over alleged human rights abuses.
"It is time that the EU takes a similar, tough stance to prevent a deterioration of the human rights and environmental situation in Brazil," the letter said.
"We therefore call on you to immediately halt negotiations for an EU-Mercosur free trade agreement," it added.
It urged Brussels to "guarantee that no Brazilian products sold in the EU, nor the financial markets underpinning them, are leading to increases in deforestation, land grabbing of native lands or human rights violations."
The letter also urged an end to trade talks until Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro gives concrete commitments to implement the 2015 Paris climate deal.
European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told journalists on Monday that EU officials were in close contact with the growing number of NGOs expressing concern.
EU officials have "listened to them and tried to see what we can do," the Swedish commissioner said.
"There are some measures taken in Brazil that we certainly do not agree with and a trade agreement cannot solve all the miseries of the world," Malmstrom said.
"But we can get a context to discuss these issues. We are certainly trying to get a chapter on trade and sustainable development that is as ambitious as possible but it is not done yet."
Brazil's Bolsonaro and Argentina's Mauricio Macri expressed confidence earlier this month that the deal would soon be signed.
Malmstrom said the two blocs were near an agreement, and expressed hope it could be reached before the current European Commission stands down in November.
The main obstacle has been European reluctance to open its market to agricultural products from South America, and more recently differences have emerged with Brazil over trading meat, sugar and automobiles.