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Brazil to Trump: Don’t Restrict Trade

FILE - Brazil President Michel Temer speaks during a meeting with trade unions on the government's proposal for Social Security reform in Brasilia, Brazil, May 16, 2016. Temer sent Donald Trump his congratulations and hopes they can work together.

Brazil’s government Wednesday congratulated U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on his victory but called on him not to resort to protectionism as the South American nation strives to boost trade to overcome a severe recession.

“I hope that does not happen,” Foreign Minister Jose Serra told reporters when asked about concerns that Trump could hinder freer trade between the two largest economies in the Americas.

Serra, who earlier this year called the prospect of a Trump presidency a “nightmare,” said he expected the incoming president to abandon campaign rhetoric when he takes office.

“One thing is training for the game; another is actually playing it,” he said.

Currency, market slide

Brazil’s currency weakened around 1.6 percent against the dollar in afternoon trading, and the main Sao Paulo stock index fell more than 1 percent because of risk aversion and uncertainty over economic policy following Trump’s victory.

During the U.S. presidential campaign, Brazilian officials had openly preferred Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to Trump, viewing him as unpredictable and opposed to freer trade. However, Wednesday Brazilian President Michel Temer sent a message to Trump expressing confidence they could work together to expand cooperation between their nations.

“I wish you much success in the government of the United States,” he added.

Temer sees boosting trade with the United States and drawing U.S. investment as key to lifting Brazil out of its worst recession since the 1930s Great Depression.

Candidate Trump anti-trade

Trump has opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and favors raising tariffs on Chinese goods as well as major changes to the NAFTA pact with Mexico and Canada to protect U.S. jobs. The billionaire president-elect has worried Latin Americans with his views on immigration and vows to expel those in the U.S. illegally and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.

“The American people have decided,” Temer said in a radio interview. “All we can do is raise our hats and congratulate.”

A Foreign Ministry official told Reuters that Brasilia may have trouble advancing a trade agenda with Trump because of Serra’s criticism of Trump in August, when he openly called on Americans to vote for Clinton.

“It put us in a delicate situation and could bury closer commercial ties,” said a senior ministry official who asked to remain unnamed because of the sensitivity of the matter. “This will be a complication, besides the fact that Trump does not like trade accords,” he told Reuters.

In a statement, Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said that the government was monitoring any impact Trump’s victory could have on prospects for Brazil’s recovery from a recession that has ground on for more than two years.

“All I can say is that we wish Trump a successful government that can help restore economic growth globally and in Brazil,” Budget and Planning Minister Dyogo Oliveira told reporters.