The place that stands to take the hardest hit in the global trade war can be found right in our backyard. Most U.S. grain, nearly a quarter of its coal and much of its petrochemicals pass through Louisiana on the winding Mississippi River. But the river carries not only goods—but also consequences.
As Bloomberg reports, although Donald Trump garnered more votes from Louisianans in 2016 than any other presidential candidate in history, his promise to put America first targets the heart of Louisiana’s commerce.
The U.S. imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union among others; Trump has threatened to add charges on up to $450 billion in Chinese goods, with the first round targeting $34 billion commencing July 6; and the erstwhile partners are retaliating.
Louisiana’s reliance on trade makes it a unique microcosm of how the tariff battle will affect America.
“Everything came from the Mississippi. It was the entryway to the heartland of the United States—that’s been the case since the city’s founding,” says Marc Morial, former New Orleans mayor. “All of the elements of the ecosystem are affected when you have a slowdown in trade. And that nerve system is what people don’t always necessarily see.”
Bloomberg notes that a trade war would weigh on Louisiana, slowing total economic output by a minimum of 7% over five years, the most of any state, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. One in six jobs in the state of 4.7 million is tied to international commerce and would be at risk, threatening an unemployment rate the U.S. Labor Department pegs near an all-time low.
Consequences can already be seen, Bloomberg reports. Aluminum shipments through New Orleans are half what they were at this time last year, according to Harbor Intelligence, an analysis firm. In the first quarter, the amount of traded goods slowed along the Port of South Louisiana: Animal-feed exports declined 31 percent from the same period last year, soybean exports are down 20%, and imports of chemicals and fertilizers have been halved. The slowdown doesn’t bode well for the half-million Louisianans whose jobs rely on that flow of goods.