The word that is usually used to describe the system of trade between European countries and their colonies is “mercantilism.” The mercantile system was one which was set up in such a way as to benefit the European countries without much regard for the colonial economies.
People in this era of history generally believed that countries needed to export in order to become rich. The idea was that a country could not be wealthy unless it exported more than it imported. In order to help this happen, countries regulated their colonies’ trade. The European countries required the colonies to buy only from the mother country, not from any other country. The European countries required all of the colonies’ exports to go through the mother country. The colonies could not sell directly to any foreign countries. This increased each country’s exports and reduced its imports.
In addition, the European countries tried to ensure that the colonies would be a market for their exports. The Europeans would often prohibit the colonists from producing various goods that were produced in the mother country. By doing this, they forced the colonists to buy those goods from the mother country, thus increasing its exports.
In short, the European countries used trade with their colonies as a way to enrich themselves. They did this with little regard for the needs or desires of the colonists. We typically call this the mercantile system.