President Donald Trump tours the Sempra Energy LNG export facility on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, in Hackberry, Louisiana. The facility has exported its first cargo of liquefied natural gas. The value of all of Louisiana’s exports rose by 18% in 2018 from the year before, despite a dramatic drop in the amount of goods headed for China, which had been the state’s biggest trading partner. The energy industry, including the fledgling LNG export business, has been one of the factors in the increased activity. 

Louisiana’s key role as an energy exporter, including both oil and natural gas, is a matter of record.

We hope President Donald Trump doesn’t mess this up with a tariff war that serves no national interest and is particularly harmful to the resources that Louisiana is bringing to the world. China’s latest round of retaliatory tariffs include a levy on imported oil, of which the Asian giant is a big customer.

Enough is enough.

The earlier tariffs imposed by Trump have not always been as damaging as first thought. The administration’s trade policies have wobbled between aggression and accommodation, and the threatening early-morning tweets have, in some cases, softened in the light of day. The national economy is healthy, although the weakness in the economies of European allies is made worse by tariff wars kicked off by Trump. Maybe this too will pass.

But there is no question that the president remains committed to trade disputes — and particularly tariffs — as a clumsy instrument for getting his way. Louisiana’s farmers and ranchers, among others, have suffered from this China-bashing.

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Predictably, mainland China has retaliated. Not only has that hurt America’s economy — let’s face it, a tariff is a tax increase on imports, paid by consumers — but the disputes are shelving indefinitely the more detailed and less dramatic negotiations that over time will make a lasting difference for American companies.

We do not defend the Chinese government’s trade abuses. Nor should the president. But the economic consequences of Trump’s actions are becoming increasingly obvious in a world in which oil and gas from Louisiana can be a trade commodity good for both producer and customer.

The president has himself visited the energy export sites in Louisiana. He should be particularly aware that provoking Chinese retaliation with tariffs isn’t in the interest of either country.

We doubt that the president is that familiar with the history of Louisiana, although he certainly had a personal interest in casino development here some decades back, though he was ultimately unsuccessful.

One historical fact is that Louisiana is named for Louis XIV, the Sun King, who centuries ago the world thought had cornered the market on arrogance.

“L’etat, c’est moi,” he is said to have declared, asserting his personal caprices as state mandates.

Is that much different from “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China,” as the president tweeted last week?

The beginning of wisdom is a recognition of limits. Louis did not have it, and it hurt France for decades if not a century.