- Compact of Free Association
The Compact of Free Association (COFA) defines the relationship that three sovereign states—the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the Republic of Palau—have entered into as associated states with the United States.
Now sovereign nations, the three freely associated states were formerly part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a United Nations trusteeship administered by the United States Navy from 1947 to 1951 and by the United States Department of the Interior from 1951 to 1986 (to 1994 for Palau). Under the COFA relationship, the United States provides guaranteed financial assistance over a 15-year period administered through the Office of Insular Affairs in exchange for full international defense authority and responsibilities.
The freely associated states actively participate in all Office of Insular Affairs technical assistance activities. The U.S. treats these nations uniquely by giving them access to many U.S. domestic programs, including disaster response and recovery and hazard mitigation programs under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and services provided by the National Weather Service, the United States Postal Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and U.S. representation to the International Frequency Registration Board of the International Telecommunications Union. The Compact area, while outside the customs area of the United States, is mainly importable duty-free.
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. In 1996, the U.S. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act included removing Medicaid benefits for resident aliens from these states. (Most other resident aliens have a five-year waiting period.)
The COFA allows the United States to operate armed forces in Compact areas, to demand land for operating bases (subject to negotiation), and excludes the militaries of other nations without U.S. permission. The U.S. in turn becomes responsible for protecting its affiliate nations 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 Palau territory. It also is not allowed to store such weapons there except in times of national emergency, state of war, or when necessary to defend against an actual or impending attack on the U.S., the Marshall Islands, or the Federated States of Micronesia.
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 nations. US$30 million will also be disbursed annually amongst 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 U.S. usage of Kwajalein Atoll for missile testing was renewed for the same period. The new Compacts also changed certain immigration rules. RMI and FSM citizens traveling to the U.S. are now required to have passports. The U.S. Postal Service was given the option to apply international postage rates for mail between the U.S. and RMI/FSM (phased in over five years). The USPS did begin implementing the change in January 2006, but decided to resume domestic services and rates in November 2007.
The renewed Compact (commonly called "Compact II") for FSM took effect on May 1, 2004, 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 expected to conclude in early 2010. U.S. financial support for Palau is currently based on a continuing resolution passed by the U.S. Congress. The Compact Trust Fund set up to replace US financial aid underperformed due to the recession. The military and civil defense provisions will remain until 2044.
- ^ Palau COFA.
- ^ Palau COFA, Sections 241 and 242
- ^ Palau COFA, Section 141; Federated States of Micronesia COFA, Section 141.
- ^ House Health Bill Would Help Pacific Island Migrants
- ^ "Paula COFA, Section 324".
- ^ BUSH SIGNS $3.5 BILLION PACIFIC COMPACT - December 18, 2003 at archives.pireport.org
- ^ USPS Postal News: USPS Delivers in the Pacific at www.usps.com
- ^ Expiration of economic provisions for Palau
- ^ Compact Trust Fund underperforms
- ^ Compact of Free Association with the Republic of Palau
- USCompact.org, USDOI Honolulu Field Office
- 1986 Compact of Free Association between RMI and FSM
- Proclamation by Ronald Reagan about the 1986 COFA between RMI and FSM
- Pacific Islands Report: Compacts of Free Association Renegotiations (includes the text of the 2003 RMI and FSM COFAs)
- Republic of Palau Compact of Free Association
- United States Code Title 48 Chapter 18 Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau
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