José Goñi, Chile’s ambassador to the United States, called his country’s new trade office in Atlanta an investment that will yield big returns for both countries.

“We are convinced the business opportunities are enormous,” Mr. Goñi told GlobalAtlanta in an interview at the Metro Atlanta Chamber. The ambassador was in Atlanta this week to announce the opening of a Chilean trade commission office here. The commission is called ProChile and operates under the government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Relations between the U.S. and Chile are at their best level ever, the ambassador said. The two countries signed a free trade agreement in 2003 that eliminated tariffs on about 85 percent of products sold, with all tariffs to be eliminated in 12 years.

“In the first five years of the free trade agreement, bilateral trade has increased more than 300 percent,” he said. “This is probably one of the most successful free trade agreements both for Chile and the United States.”

Chile hopes to increase that trade even more through the opening of more trade offices in the U.S. ProChile opened an office in Chicago two weeks ago and also has offices in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington. The Atlanta office will initially have one trade commissioner and two staff members and will be located near Lenox Square mall.

The trade offices help Chile better understand the different regions of the U.S., said the ambassador. “We can’t work with all the union in the same way,” he said. “We have to be a little more local. ”

Chile, a South American country of about 16 million people, has an economy that is heavily driven by exports. Top exports to the U.S. include wine, salmon and fruits. U.S. exports to Chile are dominated by cars, computers and machinery. From 1990 to 2008, the Chilean economy averaged a 5.8 percent annual growth rate, the ambassador said.

Although economists are projecting a contraction in the Chilean economy for 2009, Mr. Goñi predicts that it will return to a growth rate of close to 5 percent in 2010.

As Chile’s economy steadily grows, it increasingly needs U.S. technology, particularly for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, Mr. Goñi said. “The country is much more interested in buying technology now than 10 or 20 years ago,” he said.

Chile is also putting more money into education, sending students abroad and recruiting academics from other countries to visit.

Last summer, Atlanta-based Equifax Inc., which performs risk analysis for financial companies and compiles consumer credit scores, opened a new software and research center in Santiago, Chile’s capital. Equifax picked Chile because of its strong educational system, engineering talent and stable business climate.

Chile is encouraging joint ventures with U.S. companies, Mr. Goñi said. Chile offers the advantage of having free trade agreements covering more than 60 countries, including China, India, Vietnam and Japan.

“Through Chile, you can do business with practically zero tariffs,” said the ambassador.

The opening of a Chilean trade office in Atlanta is a sign of the region’s growing international status, said Jorge Fernandez, the metro chamber’s vice president of global commerce.

“It recognizes the high level of business opportunities that are available for companies in both the Chilean and Atlanta markets,” he said.