Fishing and the growing of coconuts, taro, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes form the basis of the mainly subsistence economy. The mining of Banaba's once thick phosphate deposits ended in 1979. Copra, coconuts, seaweed, and fish are the chief exports; foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, manufactured goods, and fuel are imported. Australia, Japan, Fiji, and the Unites States are the main trading partners.
A member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the nation is a republic governed under the constitution of 1979. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected by popular vote for a four-year term and is eligible for two more terms. The unicameral House of Parliament has 42 members, most elected by popular vote, who serve four-year terms. Administratively the country is divided into three units (the Gilbert, Line, and Phoenix islands), and subdivided into six districts. There are also 21 island councils, one for each of the inhabited islands.