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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., celebrated the beginning of the new year in Brazil meeting with South American leaders in an effort to improve relations with those countries and the U.S. and to look for opportunities for Wyoming. President Bush asked Enzi to be part of the delegation representing the U.S. as Brazil welcomed a new leader.

Enzi, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs, attended the inauguration of Brazil's new President, Luiz Inacio da Silva in Brasilia, Brazil. The ceremony was held Jan. 1.

"The trip was a great education for me. I greatly increased my knowledge of Central and South America," said Enzi. "My discussions with fellow U.S. delegates and officials like Brazil's Minister of Agriculture, Roberto Rodrigues, I think will be particularly beneficial to Wyoming."

Enzi said Rodrigues is an expert on cooperatives and "he gave me several ideas we may be able to use to help our producers in Wyoming." Enzi said cooperatives such as the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative and the Western Sugar Cooperative, formed by Wyoming and regional sugar beet growers, help the families who ranch and farm stay in business. Enzi also said many of the concerns the U.S. has about the European Union and Japan charging high tariffs, handing out unusually high subsidies to domestic industries and refusing to import genetically enhanced agricultural products, are shared by Brazil, making Brazil an ally on these issue.

In addition to Enzi, others who represented the U.S. at President Silva's inauguration included U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, who headed the U.S. delegation, Donna Hrinak, the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil and, John Maisto who helps advise President Bush on national security matters.

Enzi said it is advantageous to Wyoming for its elected officials to be able to have direct discussions with members of the Bush Administration and world leaders.

"I have worked with Trade Representative Zoellick since he was nominated. Even before being confirmed he knew about the problems Wyoming is having with NAFTA, Canadian sugar laundering and high tariffs and restrictions India was putting on our trona. I work with him for progress in these and other areas important to Wyoming and the West every chance I get," said Enzi. "He and my fellow U.S. delegates on this trip are a wealth of information. They are excellent strategists who are well prepared on every issue that comes up. I was particularly impressed with their sensitivity to concerns of the other countries. They are able to make connections and suggest options."

Zoellick, at a news conference after he and Enzi met with Brazil's finance minister, said Enzi's presence on the trip was valuable.

"Like in Brazil, the U.S. Congress is very important, and the senator has been very helpful to us on a number of trade and international issues. We're both pleased that his party is now in the majority in the Senate, particularly since it's the President's and my party too. But I think in a way that it's a good symbol that you have a member from the executive branch and also from our legislative branch, because we both want to work together with our friends in Brazil to make the new administration a success," said Zoellick.

In addition to meetings with Brazilian officials, Enzi took advantage of the opportunity to meet with leaders from all over the region, including the presidents of Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay and the vice president of Columbia as well as other high ranking officials from El Salvador and Guatemala.

"It is very valuable to attend important events like these in other countries," Enzi said. "I don't know of any other gathering where there is the opportunity to meet with so many heads of state with common interests and concerns. Meeting with key ministers at the start of a new administration as they form their policies is also extremely critical to start relations off on the right foot."

Enzi returned to Washington, D.C. Thursday to get ready for the 108th session of Congress which officially begins Tuesday, Jan. 7.