In the end, the famous Habeck pathos overcame the German economics minister, of all places in an unadorned factory building in the hills of the Brazilian metropolis of Belo Horizonte. It is the first stop on Economics and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck's (Greens) trip to Brazil and Colombia. In South America, he not only wants to promote the free trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur countries these days, he also wants to contractually secure the protection of the rainforest.
But first of all, the minister is quite moved by the promises of the new Brazilian government. "In any case, I can get tears in my eyes that a government is turning things around like this," he says. After all, the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva promised to end the deforestation of the Amazon.
But the tears could shoot Habeck in the eyes because of the sad reality. In February, more rainforest was destroyed in Brazil than ever before. This is the result of the evaluation of satellite images on which the number of fires in the Amazon are counted. It is also said in German diplomatic circles that this is "very worrying".
There is still courage that it will take a while for the devastating policies of Lula's predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, to be reversed. The fires increased by 60 percent in February - and that, although it is not even deforestation season, it actually rains far too often in these months. And yet there is no doubt about the political will of the Lula government to protect the Amazon.
However, the German Ministry of Climate Protection does not want to rely on that completely. Habeck would like to make the renunciation of deforestation binding in an additional agreement to the Mercosur agreement. If the Amazon were to continue to burn, these violations should also be sanctioned.
Habeck has brought support from his own party for this mission. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Cem Özdemir traveled to South America together with the Minister of Economy. In the green double, they try to explain to the Brazilians that they shouldn't wait and see how their country's economy develops and then save the rainforest sometime later.
It's a strange tone that Habeck and Özdemir adopt in their talks in Brazil: On the one hand, Germany and Europe should appear as friendlier, nicer trading partners than the Chinese. On the other hand, the German ministers want to forbid the Brazilians to give priority to catching up economically.
"Brazil is Germany's only strategic partner on the South American continent, and yet we have work to do," Habeck said after his visit to Romeu Zema, the governor of the state of Minas Gerais, in which Belo Horizonte is located.
A lot has changed in recent years - economically and geopolitically. "Economic policy, because protection requirements - such as climate protection, protection of natural diversity on earth - must become an integral part of the economic system itself, not something that comes afterwards to gains in prosperity," says Habeck. It is a delicate statement for someone who comes from Germany, a country that has been able to complete its economic development with little regard for climate protection.
In the governor's residence, Habeck no longer sounds as accommodating as he did shortly before leaving for Brazil. He had emphasized that one could also talk to the Brazilians about the so-called "level playing field" in the planned free trade agreement with the Mercosur countries.
“Level playing field” means a regulation according to which both sides of a free trade agreement basically have the same opportunities to access the markets of the other side. The same rules should apply to everyone involved. "That is, so to speak, the pure market economy lesson," says Habeck. "But for the economic sectors that are not yet so well developed, such level playing field clauses are of course actually a disadvantage."
Habeck suggests that in return for more sustainability and climate protection, Europe could agree to worse rules for its own companies and, for example, leave the extraction of their raw materials to the Brazilians alone. A similar agreement had already been reached with the Chileans.
However, there is a crucial catch: the free trade agreements are being negotiated at European level, and there has not yet been an agreement with the other EU member states on this procedure.
The advance is important, say the two German ministers. "Germany is a reliable partner for reform-oriented countries," explains Özdemir. "We know the others are not sleeping, other countries with other ambitions that are trying to destabilize, strengthen authoritarian forces that only see countries as raw material bases are also active there."
What is meant are the Chinese, who would be only too happy to expand their relations with Brazil, which is rich in raw materials. "I think it's a smart idea not to just follow the pure market economy lesson, but rather, as Cem Özdemir said, to be the friendlier trading partner, the one who ensures that the countries themselves can share in prosperity," says Habeck. "That seems fair to me, and secondly, if we can implement what may seem like less, it could actually be an added value because we can then become a more desirable partner."
In fact, the German economy would also benefit from a Mercosur agreement. According to estimates, customs duties worth four billion euros would be eliminated for exports to South America. The Federation of German Industries (BDI) calls for rapid implementation accordingly.
But there is also massive resistance, and Özdemir in particular has to deal with it: German farmers fear that there would be a wave of food imports, especially meat, at dumping prices if the Mercosur countries did not have to for these products pay more duties.
"In its current form, this trade agreement is a major threat to German and European agriculture," says the President of the German Farmers' Association, Joachim Rukwied. “This would place the EU in new geopolitical dependencies. This time for food security.” That the worries are not entirely unfounded is shown by the fact that Governor Zema has announced that his state could “increase enormously” the already high exports of agricultural products.
However, Özdemir considers possible concessions by the Brazilians to protect the rainforest and climate to be more important. Of course, he also has the interests of German farmers in mind, says the responsible minister.
"But it is also in the interest of German agriculture that the governments on this planet that believe in sustainability and believe that everything must be done to make the climate crisis halfway manageable, that believe in liberal democracies being strengthened, are strengthened Need to become."
In his tearful speech in the factory hall, Habeck emphasized that, in return for protecting the rainforest, Germany must of course also meet its climate protection goals and quickly phase out coal-fired power generation. The hall where Habeck speaks belongs to the Neuman company
The hydrogen market is not yet mature, says the managing partner of Neuman
Although Peters actually wants to help the minister save the climate, he kindly reads him the riot act on the factory floor. Europe must finally step up the pace, and the USA and China already have considerable government support for climate protection technologies. And one should not commit too early to a path like hydrogen. "We are certain that all technologies are necessary to achieve the 1.5 degree target," says Peters. "Demand then decides which technology will prevail."
At the end of his visit, Habeck plants a tree in the place where the foundation stone for the new factory building would otherwise be laid. Why and what should happen to the tree remains unclear. Hopefully it won't be cut down again soon.
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