Northern Mariana Islands

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Offers duty-free entry to the USA for garment makers

The country consists of 22 volcanic or coral islands in the Pacific. The largest indigenous group are the Chamorro. They and other islanders are US citizens. But more than half the population are immigrant workers, particularly from the Philippines and more recently from China.

Few people work in agriculture. Many more now work in the tourist industry, which caters to around 300,000 visitors per year. But many of these are from Japan and Korea and the numbers dropped sharply in 2005 when Japan Airlines pulled out.

The main employer has been a foreign-owned garments industry. But this is being phased out now that other countries are being granted equivalent access to US markets and the country is under pressure to comply with US labour standards.

As a commonwealth of the USA, the islanders get substantial aid. They will probably need more. The closure of garment factories and a decline in tourism has cut revenues.

The islanders elect their own governor, who since 2005 has been the Republican, Benigno R. Fitial. There is also a legislature, though this often just rubber-stamps the governor's proposals.

cnmigov.net/ Office of the Governor

saipantribune.com Saipan Tribune - Daily newspaper

People:88,000. Chamorro, Carolinian, and Asian. Life expectancy: 77 years

Government:Self-governing commonwealth in political union with the USA. Capital: Saipan

Economy:GDP per capita: $PPP 12,500. Main export: garments

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