Mercantilism is a nationalist economic policy that is designed to maximize the exports and minimize the imports for an economy. In other words, it seeks to maximize the accumulation of resources within the country and use those resources for one-sided trade. It promotes imperialism, colonialism, protectionism, currency manipulation, and tariffs and subsidies on traded goods to achieve that goal.

Seaport at sunset, a French seaport painted by Claude Lorrain in 1639, at the height of mercantilism

The policy aims to reduce a possible current account deficit or reach a current account surplus, and it includes measures aimed at accumulating monetary reserves by a positive balance of trade, especially of finished goods. Historically, such policies might have contributed to war and motivated colonial expansion.[1] Mercantilist theory varies in sophistication from one writer to another and has evolved over time.

It promotes government regulation of a nation's economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. High tariffs, especially on manufactured goods, were almost universally a feature of mercantilist policy.[2] Before it fell into decline, mercantilism was dominant in modernized parts of Europe and some areas in Africa from the 16th to the 19th centuries, a period of proto-industrialization.[3] Some commentators argue that it is still practised in the economies of industrializing countries,[4] in the form of economic interventionism.[5][6][7][8][9]

With the efforts of supranational organizations such as the World Trade Organization to reduce tariffs globally, non-tariff barriers to trade have assumed a greater importance in neomercantilism.

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