Gov. Sonny Perdue is to lead a delegation of economic development officials from Georgia to Argentina and Uruguay Sunday through Wednesday, June 20-23, to further strengthen trade relations with those countries.

Georgia’s exports to Argentina totaled more than $156 million last year, ranking the state as the seventh-largest exporter among U.S. states to that country, according to a press release issued by the governor’s office.

The release also said that Georgia is the sixth-largest exporter to Uruguay among all U.S. states.

“This trade mission to Argentina and Uruguay will help us reconnect with important trading partners,” Mr. Perdue said in the release. “These are relationships we first developed when building Atlanta’s bid to host the Western Hemisphere’s free trade headquarters. While that opportunity never materialized, our efforts have continued to shape Georgia’s reputation as a global business leader.”

The Free Trade Area of the Americas initiative was to extend Nafta to all countries in the Americas except for Cuba. The initiative has been opposed by Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Dominica and Honduras and has floundered since the last meeting of representatives from 34 prospective member-countries was held in Miami in 2003.

Atlanta has hosted the Americas Competitiveness Forum in 2007 and 2008, however, bringing together many participants from the Western Hemisphere’s public and private sectors.

The forum is to be held again this November in Atlanta with more than 1,000 participants estimated to attend including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and heads of state, ministers of economy, commerce, trade and industry as well as leaders from academia, civil society and business.

The delegation is to participate in business meetings in the Argentine cities of Buenos Aires and Cordoba including representatives of Argentina’s travel and tourism industry who are expected to increasingly target Georgia as a tourist destination.

It also will meet with Vilma Martinez, the U.S. ambassador to Argentina.

The primary purpose of the visit to Uruguay is to promote the upcoming Americas Competitiveness Forum, according to the release.

For more information, call the governor’s office of communications at (404) 651-7774.