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The Challenge of Hegemony

inated Eastern Europe would serve as a territorial and agricultural base from which Germany could compete with the British Empire and the United States.10


In 1935, like Japan and Germany, Mussolini began to advocate a commer- cial policy of economic autarky and imperial grandeur under a Third Rome. Known as the “March to the Ocean,” it would establish Italian hegemony over the entire Mediterranean, making Italy “the mistress of the Mediterranean” by linking Libya, Ethiopia, and the Sudan via French North Africa (Cassels 1983, 260–68; McKercher 1991, 752). Italian agri- cultural policy or “the battle for wheat” was aimed at freeing Italy from dependence on foodstuffs from abroad. Yet, Italian autarky was largely impossible since Italy was highly dependent on foreign strategic raw mate- rials and imported energy (Murray 1979b, 45).

Italy’s commercial policy of autarky concerned Britain. Free traders warned that an economically backward country like Italy would block Britain’s future access to its markets and investments in the region. Unable to compete with more ef‹cient foreign powers, Italy would exclude them from any region that it came to dominate. As one author claims, “Italy was in decline and therefore dangerous” (Pratt 1975, 84).

Finally, by 1930, Aristide Briand, the prime minister of France, was one of the primary advocates of a Pan-European Union, including a customs union or Continental trading bloc (Pegg 1983, 83–86). Supporters empha- sized the need for expanded trade between the industrial western states and the agricultural eastern states. Germany opposed the Pan-European Union because it would undermine its own plans for a customs union with the smaller states in south and central Europe. Britain opposed the “United States of Europe” plan because its Continental competitors would gain trade advantages through moderate or high external tariffs (Pegg 1983, 99).

liberal united states

Unlike Germany, Japan, and Italy, the United States was a liberal con- tender. The Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (1934) authorized the president to lower tariffs, reversing the protectionist trend in American commercial policy (the Fordney-McCumber Act of 1922 and the Smoot- Hawley Tariff of 1930) (Lake 1988, 204–5). One goal of the United States was the restoration of the Open Door economic trading order (Gardner

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