Georgia has been chosen as one of eight states to participate in a joint program of the Washington-based U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Commerce Department to help small- to medium-sized companies increase their exports to countries with which the U.S. has free trade agreements.

Besides Georgia, the other states are Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, according to Leslie Schweitzer, a senior trade adviser at the U.S. chamber who visited Atlanta May 5.

Ms. Schweitzer told GlobalAtlanta that the program’s focus for 2005-06 would be on the South because the states in the region are generally trading below the national average.

The program, titled TradeRoots, is funded by a federal grant and monies raised by the U.S. chamber. Although states do not pay for the program, the governor of each state that participates must support of the program wholeheartedly, she added.

Besides approving the program, she said that Gov. Sonny Perdue has agreed to lead trade education tours in cities throughout Georgia, including Rome, Savannah, Tifton and Thomasville.

“We are pleased Georgia has been selected for this very successful program, and the state is looking forward to making a formal announcement in the near future,” Chris Clark, deputy commissioner of Global Commerce of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, told GlobalAtlanta last week.

Within a month following the governor’s tour this year, the University of Georgia’s Business Outreach Services is to offer in-depth trade education series in a number of Georgia cities, according to Ms. Schweitzer.

Special events are to be held to encourage the development of business ties between Georgia and Chile, she added. The Chile Free Trade Agreement went into effect in January 2004 and Chile’s ambassador to the U.S., Andrés Bianchi, is to promote trade relations between Georgia and his country during a tour of the state.

“Georgia is active already in Canada and Mexico,” Ms. Schweitzer said. “And there is untapped opportunity for Georgia in Chile.”

Video teleconferencing is to be used to introduce Georgian and Chilean companies to each other.

The program is to involve local chambers of commerce, economic development offices, universities, industry organizations and all other entities within each state that have a role in international economic development.

The program also is to examine opportunities to expand the state’s tourism, she said.

To learn more about the program, go to Ms. Schweitzer may be contacted by e-mail at