It may seem odd, but governments often step in to restrict trade. Why might a government want to restrict trade? If domestic industries cannot compete against foreign industries, the government will restrict trade to help the domestic industries develop. Governments may also restrict trade to foster business at home rather than encouraging business to move out of the country. These protectionist policies encourage prices to stay high and help domestic industries to develop.
Governments three primary means to restrict trade: quota systems; tariffs; and subsidies.
A quota system imposes restrictions on the specific number of goods imported into a country. Quota systems allow governments to control the quantity of imports to help protect domestic industries.
Tariffs are fees paid on imported goods. Tariffs increase the price that consumers pay for the good, thus reducing the quantity of the good demanded and making the price more in line with the price charged by domestic producers. Tariff profits may go to the government or to developing industries.
Subsidies are grants given to domestic industries to help them develop and compete with foreign producers. Through subsidies, domestic producers can charge less for their goods without losing money due to outside grants.
Through judicious use of quotas, tariffs, and subsidies, governments are able to improve the domestic economy. This may increase the price that domestic consumers pay for goods, though this small annoyance is usually outweighed by significantly bolstered overall economic levels and long-term economic growth.