December 8, 2016 / 9:56 PM / 10 months ago

Brazil's Temer to call Trump as country seeks business openings

Brazil's President Michel Temer attends a meeting with political leaders at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer plans to call U.S. President-elect Donald Trump next week as Brazil looks for business opportunities that could open up if Trump follows through on campaign promises to rewrite a trade deal with Mexico.

A senior Brazilian official said on Thursday that Temer would call Trump for their first conversation since the New York businessman was elected to the White House last month.

Temer sent a telegram of congratulations to Trump, instead of calling him soon after his election as some other Latin American leaders did.

Trump’s vows during the campaign to protect U.S. companies by limiting trade worried Brazilian investors, but the Temer administration, under pressure to rescue an economy stuck in a two-year recession, sees a silver lining for local businesses.

Brazilian industries, benefiting from a weaker real currency BRL=, could increase their market share in the United States if Trump makes good on his threats to rework or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement with neighbouring Mexico and Canada. Trump takes office on Jan. 20.

“We still don’t know what Trump’s strategy will be toward Brazil but there could be opportunities,” said the official who asked for anonymity to speak freely. “This is our initial outreach.”

Ties between the Western Hemisphere’s two largest economies were rocked in recent years by trade disputes and disclosures that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on former leftist President Dilma Rousseff.

Temer, who formally replaced Rousseff in August after her impeachment, has vowed to bolster international trade and increase the productivity of Brazilian businesses struggling with high taxes and deficient infrastructure.

A former Brazilian ambassador to the United States, Rubens Barbosa, said opening a line of communication with Trump was a step in the right direction toward increasing Brazilian exports.

He said he believed, however, that Mexico would remain a key trade partner for Washington.

“There are opportunities if Brazil gets its house in order with reforms and we make an effort to enter that market,” Barbosa said. “But Trump cannot distance Washington from Mexico because the business interests are too big.”

Outcry in recent weeks over an attempt by lawmakers to shield themselves from corruption probes by curbing the power of the judiciary has deepened institutional rifts in Brazil and raised doubts over Temer’s capacity to revive the former emerging market star.

Trump’s surprise election win added further volatility to Brazilian assets, some of the hardest-hit along with Mexico among emerging economies, amid uncertainty over his policy direction.

Writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Peter Cooney

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