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Abolition of the Corn Laws and beginning of a period of free trade

In the United Kingdom, lifting of quotas and tariffs on wheat imports by Prime Min­ister Robert Peel. Pro­mul­gated between 1773 and 1815, « the Corn Laws » intro­duced a set of bar­riers to wheat imports in order to protect British agri­culture: tariffs, or import ban on wheat if its price drops below a certain threshold etc. In 1817, eco­nomist David Ricardo provided some serious argu­ments against pro­tec­tionism by showing that a country such as the United Kingdom had an interest in spe­cial­izing in tex­tiles, in which it had a com­par­ative advantage, rather than con­tinue to devote pro­duction factors to agri­culture. A few decades after his death, in 1846, it is these argu­ments that led the Con­ser­vative Prime Min­ister Robert Peel to lift these reg­u­la­tions. This event marks the United Kingdom's lasting con­version to free trade, in par­ticular with the signing in 1860 of a com­mercial treaty with France.

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