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Caribbean

Overview

The Caribbean, or West Indies as it is also known, consists of the Caribbean Sea and the countries therein and, in total, has a population of approximately 30 million people. It is bounded by the Greater Antilles island chain in the north, the Lesser Antilles in the east and by the coasts of Venezuela, Columbia and Panama to the south. To the west lie the coasts of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and the Mexican Yucatan peninsula.

Despite being located north of the Greater Antilles in the Atlantic Ocean, countries such as the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands are also considered to be part of the Caribbean due to their similar culture, as are the South American countries of Guyane, Suriname and Guyana.

The region has a strong European colonial heritage, most notably in the main languages spoken, which include English, Spanish, French and Dutch, and many of the islands remain politically tied to Europe. For example, Anguilla and Montserrat are British dependent territories, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Turks & Caicos Islands are British crown colonies and the British Monarch is head of state of the independent countries of Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia. Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles are autonomous members of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guyane are overseas départements of France.

The Caribbean is an attractive location for foreign investment. Most countries benefit from well trained workforces and modern infrastructure and the region enjoys special trading arrangements with Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, the United States and the European Union. Tourism and related industries form the backbone of the region’s economy, which is no surprise given the warm climate, beautiful beaches and clear seas on offer in the Caribbean. The majority of visitors come from Europe and North America.

In 1973 the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) was established. The aims of the organisation being to develop economic cooperation through the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, coordinate foreign policy among its members states and cooperate in areas such as health, education, communication and industrial relations. The current members of CARICOM include Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas (a member of the Community but not the Common Market), Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.
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