By Abby Callard
Perhaps the best piece of campaign trail gossip to leak since Election Day is the report — by Fox News, of all places — that Sarah Palin couldn't name the countries involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement. But if the question is which countries constitute North America, the answer isn't so simple.Like the definition of the Bush Doctrine, it depends whom you ask.
Most people think North America is just the United States, Canada, and Mexico. But the United Nations defines the continent of North America as including three different regions: Northern America (Canada, the United States, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Greenland, and Bermuda), Central America (Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama), and the Caribbean (26 countries and territories).
The CIA World Factbook takes a similar stance. "North America is commonly understood to include the island of Greenland, the isles of the Caribbean, and to extend south all the way to the Isthmus of Panama," it says.
At the same time, people in some parts of the world don't distinguish between North America and South America. The five-continent model—which combines Europe and Asia into Eurasia and merges North and South America as the Americas—is taught in Latin America, Iran, and some parts of Europe.
Palin should be off the hook for not being able to name the countries of North America. Not being able to name the signatories of NAFTA? Well, that's a more serious blunder.
6 November 2008