Trade in colonial America was regulated by the British trading system through acts of exchange and navigation. Until the 1760s, few settlers openly defended free trade, in part because the rules were not strictly enforced (New England was famous for smuggling), but also because colonial traders did not want to compete with foreign goods and shipping. According to historian Oliver Dickerson, the desire for free trade was not one of the causes of the American Revolution. “The idea that the fundamental business practices of the eighteenth century were false,” Dickerson wrote, “was not part of the thinking of revolutionary leaders.”  In Kicking Away the Ladder, developing economist Ha-Joon Chang studies the history of free trade policy and economic growth and finds that many countries today industrialized have had significant trade barriers throughout their history. The United States and Britain, sometimes considered the homeland of free trade policy, have always used protectionism to varying degrees. Britain abolished the Corn Laws which, in 1846, in response to domestic pressure, restricted grain imports and did not reduce producer protectionism until the mid-nineteenth century, when its technological advance was at its peak, but tariffs on industrial products had returned to 23% by 1950. Until the 1950s, the United States maintained weighted average tariffs of about 40 to 50 percent on industrial products, supplemented by the natural protectionism of high transportation costs in the nineteenth century.  The most consistent practitioners of free trade were Switzerland, the Netherlands and, to a lesser extent, Belgium.  Chang describes the export-oriented industrialization policy of the Four Asian Tigers as “much more sophisticated and well-coordinated than its historical counterparts.”  Debates on free trade and related issues concerning the colonial administration of Ireland led to periodic disruptions (as in 1846 and 1906) within the British Conservative Party (questions of the right in the 1820s to 1840s, Irish home rule issues in the 19s and early 20th century). Free trade is a trade policy that does not limit imports or exports. It can also be understood as the idea of the free market that applies to international trade. Within the government, free trade is mostly supported by political parties that defend liberal economic positions, while left-wing and nationalist political parties are generally in favour of protectionism the opposite of free trade. Haberler, G.: Monetary devaluation and terms of trade.
In: Koo, A.Y.C. (eds.) Essays selected by Gottfried Haberler. MIT Press, Cambriage (1952) THE GATT is a trade agreement whose objective, as stated in its preamble, is “the substantial reduction of customs duties and other barriers to trade and. . . the elimination of discriminatory treatment in international trade. The most important principles are: the most-favoured-nation clause, according to which any advantage granted to one signatory nation must be extended to all others (Article I); equal treatment of goods from signatory countries with regard to national taxes and regulations (Article II); fair trade against dumping and export subsidies (Article VI); the elimination of quantitative restrictions and the exclusive use of customs duties to protect domestic industry (Article XI); and the negotiated settlement of trade disputes (Articles XXII and XXIII). . . .