Marshall Islands

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After almost four decades under United States administration as the easternmost part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association. Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the islands between 1947 and 1962.

United States Government assistance is the mainstay of this tiny island economy. Agricultural production is concentrated on small farms, and the most important commercial crops are coconuts, tomatoes, melons, and breadfruit. Small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, fish processing, and copra. The tourist industry, now a small source of foreign exchange employing less than 10% of the labor force, remains the best hope for future added income. The islands have few natural resources, and imports far exceed exports. Under the terms of the Compact of Free Association, the US provides roughly $65 million in annual aid. Negotiations were underway in 1999 for an extended agreement. Government downsizing, drought, a drop in construction, and the decline in tourism and foreign investment due to the Asian financial difficulties caused GDP to fall in 1996-98.

Originally from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the U.S. Department of State website. Not Wikified.