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Country Profile

Area: 181.3 sq km (112.406 sq mi)
Population: 65,859 (2010 est)
Capital city: Majuro
People: Marshallese 92.1%, other 7.9% (2000)
Languages: Both Marshallese (which has two dialects) and English are recognised as the nation's office languages, Japanese is also spoken.
Climate: Tropical; hot and humid; wet season from May to November; islands border typhoon belt.
Religions: Protestant 54.8%, Assembly of God 25.8%, Roman Catholic 8.4%, Bukot nan Jesus 2.8%, Mormon 2.1%. other Christian 3.6%. other 1%, non 1.5% (1999 census).
Currency: US dollar (USD)
Major political parties: United Democratic Party (UDP), Ailin Kein Ad (Our Islands), United People’s Party
Government: Parliamentary democracy in free association with the United States of America.
Head of State and Head of Government: President Christopher Loeak
Foreign Minister: Hon Philip H Muller
Membership of international groups / organisations: Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Maritime Organisation (IMO), International Whaling Commission (IWC), South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement (SPARTECA), Pacific Community (SPC), United Nations (UN), World Health Organisation (WHO), Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), International Criminal Court (ICC), International Labour Organisation (ILO), Alliance of Small Island State (AOSIS)

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Basic economic facts

GDP: US$152.8 million (2009)
GDP per capita: US$2,504 (2009)
GDP real growth: 1.5% (2008)
Inflation (GDP deflator): 0.5% (2009)
Major industries: Copra, tuna processing, tourism, craft items from seashells, wood, pearls
Major trading partners: Japan, United States, New Zealand, Australia, China, Taiwan
Exchange rate: Uses US dollar
Unemployment: 30.9% (2008)
Government is the largest employer, employing 46% of the salaried work force. GDP is derived mainly from Compact transfer payments from the United States. Under the 2003 amended Compact of Free Association, the US has agreed to give the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia jointly some US$3.5 billion in economic and service aid over the next twenty years. The aid formula is for decreasing US assistance and increasing emphasis on private sector and foreign investment. In 2010, direct U.S. aid accounted for 61.3% of the Marshall Islands' fiscal budget.

The Marshall Islands is still a mainly copra-based subsistence economy. Copra and coconut oil constitute 90% of exports. Yellowfin tuna are exported fresh for the Japanese sushi market. The tourism industry, a small but useful source of foreign exchange, now employs 10% of the labour force but remains the best hope for future added income. There is a chronic trade imbalance in favour of the United States and Japan although new partners include Australia and China (2004). The country’s imports far exceed their exports. Great potential lies in marine resources and seabed mineral deposits. The Marshall Islands has a 750,000 square mile Exclusive Economic Zone rich in skipjack and yellowfin tuna. The Asian Development Bank has devoted US$100,000 to assessing the island's fish resources. - A service-oriented economy is located in Majuro and Ebeye. It is sustained by government expenditure and the US Army installation at Kwajalein Atoll. The airfield there also serves as a second national hub for international flights.

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Recent history

In 1986 the Marshall Islands entered into a Compact of Free Association with the United States, establishing the Republic as an independent state with the right to make its own foreign policy decisions, but reserving to the US responsibility for defence. An amended Compact of Free Association was finally negotiated in 2003 and came into force on 1 May 2004. This agreement extends US funding for the next twenty years and allows the US continued use of Kwajalein Atoll as a US Military missile tracking station. The amended Compact followed two years of intensive negotiations to renew the fiscal and strategic relationship. The Compact is designed to wean the Marshall Islands off US support over the course of the twenty years. In December 1990 the UN Trusteeship in respect of the Marshall Islands was terminated.

Longer historical perspective

Before World War II the islands now known as the Republic of the Marshall Islands were a component of Japanese administered Mandated Territory set up by the League of Nations. After the war, in 1947, they became part of the UN Strategic Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI), administered by the United States. On 1 May 1979, in recognition of the evolving status of the Marshall Islands, the United States recognised the Constitution of the Marshall Islands and the establishment of the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Constitution incorporates both American and British constitutional concepts.

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The Republic of Marshall Islands joined the United Nations in 1991. Marshall Islands are members of the Pacific Islands Forum. The Marshall Islands lays claim to Wake Island, which is under the administration of the United States.

Relations with the UK

The UK's relations with the Marshall Islands are warm and friendly.

Diplomatic representation

The British Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands is Mr Stephen Lillie who is also the resident HM Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines based at the British Embassy Manila. Whilst there is no British Consulate in Majuro, the UK has an Acting Honorary Consular Agent, Mr Ian Pickering, who is able to assist both the small resident British community and any distressed British Citizen tourists in the first instance.

Aid and development

The UK has no aid programme in the Marshall Islands. However the Bilateral Programme Budget of the British Embassy in Manila has provided funding for a climate change project in 2011. The project raised public awareness of the harmful yet preventable environmental practices within the communities to equip them with a better understanding of their role in protecting the fragile coral reefs that surround their islands

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The Republic of the Marshall Islands - comprises 29 low-lying coral atolls and five islands scattered over 750,000 sq miles of the Central Pacific, about one half of the way from Hawaii to Australia. Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein, the famous World War II battleground, surrounds the world's largest lagoon and is used as a US missile test range. The island city of Ebeye is the second largest settlement in the Marshall Islands, after the capital Majuro, and one of the most densely populated locations in the Pacific. -. The weather is tropical, hot and humid with the wet season running from May to November each year. The islands border the typhoon belt.

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Trade and investment with the UK

Initial estimates in 2010 of UK exports of goods to the Marshall Islands totalled £176,642 while UK import estimates from the Marshall Islands totalled £885,871.

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The Republic of Marshall Islands is a constitutional republic.

The legislative branch of government consists of the Nitijela (Parliament). The Nitijela has 33 members from 24 districts elected for 4-year terms. Members are called Senators. The Executive comprises the President and the Cabinet. The President is elected by majority vote from the membership off the Nitijela; he selects the Cabinet (currently 10 ministers plus the President) from members of the Nitijela. There are four Court systems comprising of a Supreme Court and a High Court plus district and community courts and the traditional rights court. The 13-member Council of Chiefs (Iroij) serves a largely consultative function on matters of custom and traditional practice.

In November 2007 voters elected the parliament (Nitijela) in generally free and fair multiparty elections, although there were concerns about the recounting of some ballot boxes.

On 3 January, Christopher Loeak was elected the sixth President of the Marshall Islands, replacing, Jurelang Zedkaia. The next general elections are expected to take place in November 2015.

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The government generally respects the human rights of its citizens. However, some areas of concern are prison conditions, government corruption, violence against women, child abuse, and lack of worker protections. There have been some accounts of racial discrimination, particularly against Chinese nationals.

The government shows a commitment to children's welfare through its programmes of free education and health care, but these have not been adequate to meet the needs of the country's increasing population.

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Last Updated: January 2012

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