During colonial times, what fueled the global economy?
Tea and spices.
Most countries in existence during the colonial era relied almost entirely upon homegrown and home made. There were, of course, exceptions. For America, at the time, tea and sugar were not grown in America, as was true for most spices. Tea grown in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was prized world-wide hence the East India Tea Company being so large and successful. Sugar used in America was imported from the West Indies along with the sugar extract, molasses. Out of this came what was known as the triangle trade.
America imported its china from England while England imported its mainsail masts from America.
The idea of a global economy was only on a very limited scale.