This statement uses the notion of absolute benefit to make an argument against commercialism, which at the time was the dominant view of trade, where a country should export more than import and therefore accumulate wealth.  Instead, smith said, countries could benefit from the fact that they exclusively manufacture the products for which they are best suited and that they act together as necessary for consumption purposes. In this context, it is not the value of exports relative to imports that matters, but the value of products produced by a nation. However, the concept of absolute benefit does not refer to a situation in which a country has no advantage in the manufacture of a particular product or type of goods.  As far as the United States is concerned, the country has never participated in the trade liberalization that swept Europe in the first half of the 19th century. But in the second half of the century, protectionism grew considerably with the increase in tariffs during the Civil War, and then the mcKinley ultra-protectionist tariff law of 1890. At that time, the United States had a large trade surplus on industrial products. One of Hull`s champion titles was to recruit U.S. export industries on the side of removing trade barriers for the process, thereby counteracting the protectionist and import-competing industries (such as textiles), which had previously dominated the country`s trade policy. Trade barriers in the United States remained relatively high in the 1930s, but the trend is now declining. Nevertheless, a certain level of protectionism is the global norm. Most developed nations maintain controversial agricultural tariffs.
From 1820 to 1980, average tariffs on manufactured goods in twelve industrialized countries ranged from 11 to 32%. In developing countries, average tariffs on industrial products are about 34%.  American economist C. Fred Bergsten developed bicycle theory to describe trade policy. In this model, trade policy is dynamically unstable, constantly moving towards either liberalisation or protectionism. To prevent cycling from falling off the wheel (the disadvantages of protectionism), trade policy and multilateral trade negotiations must constantly move towards greater liberalization. To achieve greater liberalization, policymakers need to call for greater consumer and wider economic well-being over narrower interests.