U.K.: Just the facts

U.K.: Just the facts

Location: Western Europe, islands including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, northwest of France.

Area: Approximately 98,000 square miles, slightly smaller than Oregon.

Natural resources: Coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, lead, zinc, gold, tin, limestone, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, potash, silica sand, slate and arable land.

Coastline: About 7,800 miles.

Environment (current issues): The U.K. continues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (it has met Kyoto Protocol target of a 12.5 percent reduction from 1990 levels and intends to meet the legally binding target and move toward a domestic goal of a 20 percent cut in emissions by 2010. By 2005, the government aims to reduce the amount of industrial and commercial waste disposed of in landfill sites to 85 percent of 1998 levels and to recycle or compost at least 25 percent of household waste, increasing to 33 percent by 2015. Between 1998-99 and 1999-00, household recycling increased from 8.8 percent to 10.3 percent.

Population: 60.3 million, 0.3 percent growth rate (2004 estimate).

Economic overview: The U.K., a leading trading power and financial center, is one of the quartet of trillion-dollar economies of Western Europe. Over the past two decades, the government has greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60 percent of food needs with only 1 percent of the labor force. The U.K. has large coal, natural gas and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10 percent of gross domestic product, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Services, particularly banking, insurance and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP, while industry continues to decline in importance. GDP growth slipped in 2001-03 as the global downturn, the high value of the pound and the bursting of the "new-economy" bubble hurt manufacturing and exports. Still, the economy is one of the strongest in Europe; inflation, interest rates and unemployment remain low. The relatively good economic performance has complicated the Blair government's efforts to make a case for Britain to join the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Critics point out that the economy is doing well outside of EMU, and they point to public-opinion polls that continue to show a majority of Britons opposed to the euro. Meanwhile, the government has been speeding up the improvement of education, transportation and health services, at a cost in higher taxes. The U.S.-led war in Iraq, together with the subsequent problems of restoring the economy and the polity, involve a heavy commitment of British military forces.

GDP: Purchasing power parity estimated at $1.7 trillion in 2003.

Labor force: 29.7 million.

Industries: Machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, and other consumer goods.

Exports: $304.5 billion (f.o.b., 2003 estimate).

Key exports: Manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals, food, beverages and tobacco.

Major export partners: U.S., Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Spain.

Imports: $363.3 billion (f.o.b., 2003 estimate).

Key imports: Manufactured goods, machinery, fuels and foodstuffs.

Major import partners: Germany, U.S., France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.

Currency: Pound.

Exchange rate: 1 pound equals about $1.82.

Railways: About 10,500 miles.

Highways: Approximately 230,000 miles, all of which are paved.

Inland waterways: About 2,000 miles.

Ports and harbors: Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Dover, Falmouth, Felixstowe, Glasgow, Grangemouth, Hull, Leith, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Peterhead, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Ramsgate, Scapa Flow, Southampton, Sullom Voe, Teesport and Tyne.

Merchant marine: 384 ships (1,000 gross registered tons or more), totaling 9.2 million GRT and 9.6 million deadweight tons.

Airports: 471.

Source: 2003 CIA Factbook