Commercial Imperialism? Political Influence and Trade During the Cold War


Berger D, Easterly W, Nunn N, Satyanath S. Commercial Imperialism? Political Influence and Trade During the Cold War. American Economic Review. 2013; 103 (2) : 863-896.
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We exploit the recent declassification of CIA documents and examine whether there is evidence of US power being used to influence countries’ decisions regarding international trade. We measure US influence using a newly constructed annual panel of CIA interventions that were successful at installing and supporting leaders during the Cold War. Our presumption is that the US had greater influence over foreign leaders that were installed and backed by the CIA. We show that following successful CIA interventions there was an increase in foreign-country imports from the US, but there was no similar increase in foreign-country exports to the US. Further, the increase in US exports was concentrated in industries which the US had a comparative disadvantage in producing, not a comparative advantage. This is consistent with US influence being used to create a larger foreign market for American products. Our analysis is able to rule out decreased bilateral trade costs, changing political ideology, and an increased supply of US loans and grants as alternative explanations. We provide evidence that the increase in US exports arose through direct purchases of US products by foreign governments.


Conditionally Accepted, American Economic Review

Last updated on 09/29/2018