Flag of Guam

Guam country brief

Introduction

The island of Guam is in the North Pacific Ocean, south of the Northern Mariana Islands and north of Papua New Guinea. It has a population of approximately 160,000.

Political overview

Guam is a self-governing territory of the United States of America. The President of the United States is Guam's Head of State. A locally elected Governor, currently Eddie Calvo, is Head of Government.

Guam's Legislature consists of 15 members elected by popular vote every two years. It is empowered to enact legislation on local matters, including taxation and fiscal appropriations. The principal parties in Guam are the Democrats and the Republicans, but members in the legislature often vote across party lines.

Executive power is vested in a civilian governor who is elected by popular vote every four years. Elections were last held on 2 November 2010 in which Eddie Calvo (Republican) defeated Democrat former Governor Carl Gutierez. The next elections are scheduled for 4 November 2014.

Guam has an elected delegate to the US Congress. The delegate is a member of the US House of Representatives but does not have voting rights. Incumbent Democrat, Madeleine Bordallo has held that position since 2003.

The judiciary consists of the Federal District Court of Guam, whose judge is appointed by the US President for a term of eight years. There are three levels of local trial courts: the Supreme Court of Guam, which serves as the highest appellate court on the island; the Superior Court of Guam for criminal and civil cases; and the traffic, juvenile and small-claims courts. Judges are appointed by the Governor with consent of the Legislature, and are reconfirmed by majority public vote every four years. Appeals may be made to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and to the US Supreme Court.

Each of the island's villages is headed by a popularly elected mayor. The mayors are organised into the Mayors' council of Guam under the Executive Branch, although the mayors are not answerable to the Governor.

Economic overview

Guam is one of the more prosperous Pacific Islands, with a per capita GDP in the order of US$29 000. The US armed forces own one-third of the land in Guam and provide about 60 per cent of its income. A US-Japan agreement provides for the transfer of 4000 marines from US military bases in Okinawa to Guam. The US plans to significantly expand other defence capabilities on Guam, at an estimated cost of between US$11 billion and US$15 billion (jointly funded by the Governments of US and Japan). The second most important source of income is tourism, primarily from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Guam's fisheries and services sectors are major employers and industrial enterprises (a petroleum refinery, textile and garment firms) were established in the early 1970s.

Bilateral relationship

Australia enjoys good relations with Guam and there is a commitment to look constructively at expanding these contacts where feasible.

The former Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, visited Guam in February 2011.
Australia is a popular tourist destination for Guamanians, and contact has been enhanced in recent years by direct flights between Guam and Cairns which are four and a half hours apart by air.

Bilateral economic and trade relationship

In 2007, the ANZ Bank purchased Guam's fourth largest bank, the Citizens Security Bank. Other Australian companies including Smithbridge (construction), Pipe Networks (telecommunications) and several niche food and beverage exporters are operating in Guam.

The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) does not apply to Guam because it is outside the US Customs territory. Contracts with the US Department of Defence may, however, be covered by AUSFTA. Australian merchandise exports to Guam totalled $15.3 million in 2012, consisting mainly of liquefied propane and butane and preserved meat. Imports totalled $238,000 in 2012, consisting mainly of civil engineering equipment and parts, and mens clothing.

Visitor information

Australians travelling to Guam are advised to consult the Smartraveller travel advice.

Updated March 2014