St. Maarten is located in the northeast Caribbean approximately 300 km or 186 miles northeast of Puerto Rico. The island is divided roughly in half between France and the Netherland Antilles. France and the Netherland Antilles signed the Treaty of Concordia in 1648 which divided the island between the two nations. The French side is known as St. Martin while the Dutch side is known as St. Maarten - and which comprises one of the islands of the Netherlands Antilles - the others are Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius and Curacao.
Bonaire and Curacao form the Leeward Islands group of the Netherlands Antilles - located approximately 30 miles off the north west coast of Venezuela. Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten are in the Dutch Windward Islands group located about 100 miles east of Puerto Rico and about 500 miles north east of the Leeward Group.
The Netherlands Antilles is a parliamentary democracy, with a legal system based on Dutch law. The highest authority in Kingdom affairs, Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is represented in the Netherlands Antilles by a Crown appointed Governor and on each island by a Lieutenant Governor. The population of the Netherland Antilles is 183,700 with the capital Willemstad in Curacao. The official language is Dutch, but English is also spoken. The currency is Netherlands Antillean Guilders and the exchange rate is USD$1.00 = ANG$1.79.
St. Maarten is 34 sq. km. and its population numbers 72,892 - 37,629 of whom live on the Dutch side and 35,263 of whom live on the French side. The island depends heavily on tourism, which constitutes some 60% of its economic output. Existing incentives within the hotel industry are contributing to renewed and sustained growth.
In addition, St. Maarten offers highly competitive international banking services, and offshore trading companies on the island have the benefit of access to the European Union market of 354 million consumers. Another incentive for business on St. Maarten is that the island is free of all customs duties. Its airport, Princess Juliana International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean.