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The Compact of Free Association (COFA) is an international agreement establishing and governing the relationships of free association between the United States and the three Pacific Island sovereign states of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau. As a result, these nations are sometimes known as the Freely Associated States.

These nations, together with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, formerly composed the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a United Nations trusteeship administered by the United States Navy from 1947 to 1951 and by the US Department of the Interior from 1951 to 1986 (to 1994 for Palau).

The compact came into being as an extension of the US–UN territorial trusteeship agreement, which obliged the federal government of the United States "to promote the development of the people of the Trust Territory toward self-government or independence as appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Trust Territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned".[1] Under the compact, the US federal government provides guaranteed financial assistance over a 15-year period administered through its Office of Insular Affairs in exchange for full international defense authority and responsibilities.

The Compact of Free Association was initialed by negotiators in 1980 and signed by the parties in the years 1982 and 1983.[2] It was approved by the citizens of the Pacific states in plebiscites held in 1983.[3] Legislation on the Compact was adopted by the U.S. Congress in 1986 and signed into law on November 13, 1986.[4]

Economic provisions

Each of the associated states actively participates in all Office of Insular Affairs technical assistance activities. The US gives only these countries access to many US domestic programs,[5] including disaster response and recovery and hazard mitigation programs under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, some US Department of Education programs including the Pell Grant, and services provided by the National Weather Service, the United States Postal Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and US representation to the International Frequency Registration Board of the International Telecommunication Union.[6] The Compact area, while outside the customs area of the United States, is mainly duty-free for imports.[7]

Most citizens of the associated states may live and work in the United States, and most U.S. citizens and their spouses may live and work in the associated states.[8][9] In 1996, the US Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act removed Medicaid benefits for resident foreigners from the states, even after the five-year waiting period that most other resident aliens have.[10]

Military provisions

The COFA allows the United States to operate armed forces in Compact areas and to demand land for operating bases (subject to negotiation), and excludes the militaries of other countries without US permission. The US in turn becomes responsible for protecting its affiliate countries and responsible for administering all international defense treaties and affairs, though it may not declare war on their behalf. It is not allowed to use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in Palauan territory.[11] In the territories of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia it is not allowed to store such weapons except in times of national emergency, state of war, or when necessary to defend against an actual or impending attack on the US, the Marshall Islands, or the Federated States of Micronesia.[12]

Citizens of the associated states may serve in America's armed forces, and there is a high level of military enlistment by Compact citizens. For example, in 2008, the Federated States of Micronesia had a higher per-capita enlistment rate than any US state, and had more than five times the national per-capita average of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan (9 soldiers out of a population of 107,000).[13]

21st century renewal and updatesCommonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, formerly composed the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a United Nations trusteeship administered by the United States Navy from 1947 to 1951 and by the US Department of the Interior from 1951 to 1986 (to 1994 for Palau).

The compact came into being as an extension of the US–UN territorial trusteeship agreement, which obliged the federal government of the United States "to promote the development of the people of the Trust Territory toward self-government or independence as appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Trust Territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned".[1] Under the compact, the US federal government provides guaranteed financial assistance over a 15-year period administered through its Office of Insular Affairs in exchange for full international defense authority and responsibilities.

The Compact of Free Association was initialed by negotiators in 1980 and signed by the parties in the years 1982 and 1983.[2] It was approved by the citizens of the Pacific states in plebiscites held in 1983.[3] Legislation on the Compact was adopted by the U.S. Congress in 1986 and signed into law on November 13, 1986.[4]

Each of the associated states actively participates in all Office of Insular Affairs technical assistance activities. The US gives only these countries access to many US domestic programs,[5] including disaster response and recovery and hazard mitigation programs under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, some US Department of Education programs including the Pell Grant, and services provided by the National Weather Service, the United States Postal Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and US representation to the International Frequency Registration Board of the International Telecommunication Union.[6] The Compact area, while outside the customs area of the United States, is mainly duty-free for imports.[7]

Most citizens of the associated states may live and work in the United States, and most U.S. citizens and their spouses may live and work in the associated states.[8][9] In 1996, the US Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act removed Medicaid benefits for resident foreigners from the states, even after the five-year waiting period that most other resident aliens have.[10]

Military provisions

The COFA allows the United States to operate armed forces in Compact areas and to demand land for operating bases (subject to negotiation), and excludes the militaries of other countries without US permission. The US in turn becomes responsible for protecting its affiliate countries and responsible for administering all international defense treaties and affairs, though it may not declare war on their behalf. It is not allowed to use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in Palauan territory.[11] In the territories of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia it is not allowed to store such weapons except in times of national emergency, state of war, or when necessary to defend against an actual or impending attack on the US, the Marshall Islands, or the Federated States of Micronesia.[12]

Citizens of the associated states may serve in America's armed forces, and there is a high level of military enlistment by Compact citizens. For ex

Most citizens of the associated states may live and work in the United States, and most U.S. citizens and their spouses may live and work in the associated states.[8][9] In 1996, the US Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act removed Medicaid benefits for resident foreigners from the states, even after the five-year waiting period that most other resident aliens have.[10]

The COFA allows the United States to operate armed forces in Compact areas and to demand land for operating bases (subject to negotiation), and excludes the militaries of other countries without US permission. The US in turn becomes responsible for protecting its affiliate countries and responsible for administering all international defense treaties and affairs, though it may not declare war on their behalf. It is not allowed to use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in Palauan territory.[11] In the territories of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia it is not allowed to store such weapons except in times of national emergency, state of war, or when necessary to defend against an actual or impending attack on the US, the Marshall Islands, or the Federated States of Micronesia.[12]

Citizens of the associated states may serve in America's armed forces, and there is a high level of military enlistment by Compact citizens. For example, in 2008, the Federated States of Micronesia had a higher per-capita enlistment rate than any US state, and had more than five times the national per-capita average of casualties in Iraq and Afgh

Citizens of the associated states may serve in America's armed forces, and there is a high level of military enlistment by Compact citizens. For example, in 2008, the Federated States of Micronesia had a higher per-capita enlistment rate than any US state, and had more than five times the national per-capita average of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan (9 soldiers out of a population of 107,000).[13]

In 2003, the compacts with the RMI and FSM were renewed for 20 years. These new compacts provided US$3.5 billion in funding for both countries. US$30 million will also be disbursed annually among American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, and the Northern Mariana Islands in "Compact Impact" funding. This funding helps the governments of these localities cope with the expense of providing services to immigrants from the RMI, FSM, and Palau. The US use of Kwajalein Atoll for missile testing was renewed for the same period.[14] The new compacts also changed certain immigration rules. RMI and FSM citizens traveling to the US are now required to have passports. The US Postal Service was given the option to apply international postage rates for mail between the US and RMI/FSM (phased in over five years). The USPS began implementing the change in January 2006, but decided to resume domestic services and rates in November 2007.[15]

The renewed compact (commonly called "Compact II") for FSM took effect on June 25, 2004,[16] and for RMI on June 30, 2004.

[16] and for RMI on June 30, 2004.

The economic provisions of the Compact for Palau which provided $18 million in annual subsidies and grants, expired on September 30, 2009, and the renewal talk was concluded in late 2010.[17] US financial support for Palau is based on a continuing resolution passed by the U.S. Congress.[18] The Compact Trust Fund set up to replace US financial aid underperformed because of the Great Recession.[19] The military and civil defense provisions remained until 2015.[20]