President Obama made a renewed case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership today at the Nike Inc. headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
Nike CEO and President Mark Parker introduced the President and also announced major plans to invest in U.S. manufacturing, creating as many as 10,000 domestic jobs and 40,000 more in the supply chain as a result of the trade deal. Nike stands to benefit from the deal, along with the entire footwear industry, as it imports many of its goods.
“Free trade opens doors, removes barriers and creates jobs,” said Parker in his introduction. “Free trade is not critical for only our present successes but drives future growth.”
Obama’s speech comes just days after the minority leader, Senator Harry Reid, said he’d fight the Trade Promotion Authority bill in Congress and the Pacific Partnership.
The President flatly disputed claims by his opponents, many of whom he conceded were in his own party. He argued that the problems with the 1990s NAFTA deal — concerns about job creation and currency manipulation — were unfounded.
“We got cheaper goods, but there was real displacement and pain. This is not an abstraction, and it’s real for many Americans,” said Obama, referring to the increase in outsourcing in the past several decades. “But we learn the lesson. We make sure we don’t draw up the bridge. We look for trade deals that allow us to compete fairly.”
Obama argued that the new deal, with 11 Pacific trade nations, from Vietnam and Japan to Australia and New Zealand, put in place environmental and labor protections and allow America to set responsible and high standards around the world for trade to compete better with the other influencer in the Pacific: China.
The deal has widely been seen as a way to counter the growing influence of China, which is not a part of the agreement, nor has it expressed interest in becoming a part of the deal.
While in Oregon, Obama also met with small-business owners, many of which ship overseas, and argued that fewer trade barriers is better for small business.
“Many think about G.E., Boeing and Nike when they think about trade,” Obama said. “These businesses understand that markets will help them grow and hire more folks. Trade is a vital part of the middle-class economy.”
As a part of the Trans-Pacific deal, the U.S. Senate is currently debating the Trade Promotion Authority, which has been granted to nearly every President on every major trade deal over the past several decades. Called the “fast track,” the TPA would allow the Pacific Partnership to go before Congress for a yes or no vote without the option for amendments. It is expected to be voted on in the next week or so.