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Policy Imperialism: Bilateral Trade Agreements as Instruments of Media Governance

Andrew Calabrese and Marco Briziarelli

Introduction

Trade and imperialism have been interdependent for millennia. To be sure, much of the trade in which hegemonic powers have been engaged has shifted from overtly coercive relationships to ones that embrace the veneer of consensus. But this shift is not to suggest that the “armor of coercion” (Gramsci 1971) is missing. It has not been uncommon for the extensive and protracted United States (US) military presence in the Middle East to be characterized as arising out of US oil interests (Harvey 2003). The rise of public relations in international politics and the rituals underlying “soft power” make for new manifestations of imperial domination, along with more complex relationships between military and trade-related hegemony. In the modern world, this is most evident in the preponderant location of the deployed military resources of the current global hegemon – the US – in the part of the world where the most vital strategic resource upon which its economy depends is located.

The inextricable relationship between trade and empire is as old as imperialism itself. Spices, silk, sugar, tea, precious metals, and human flesh are among the treasured commodities that have been foundations for the riches of many empires, including Mongol, Roman, Venetian, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Ottoman, and British. As to what constitutes “empire,” this subject has ...

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