As Obama Visits Portland, Trade Deal Divides Liberal Community
As President Barack Obama visited Nike's headquarters in Portland — a city known for lush greenery, constant drizzle and liberal politics — the left-leaning enclave has become ground zero Friday for the debate over the administration's push for a sweeping, multinational trade deal.Wyden is a reasonable Democrat. Merkley is a Moron. Oregon desperately needs the jobs and revenue. The unions here are too powerful, and dragging our state down. I have to agree with president Obama on this one.
The president acknowledged that he's faced hurdles in his quest to garner support for an ambitious trade accord between the United States and 11 South American and Pacific Rim nations, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He told workers at the Nike campus that the people opposing this "typically they're my friends and coming from my own party. On this one, they're like, whooping on me."
Obama insisted the trade push is not political for him, since he's run his last election. He said the trade accord is the right thing to do for working families.
"The only reason I do something is because I think it's good for the economy," Obama said.
Still, in Portland, with its normally laid back vibe, the debate over the trade issue is splitting residents into two camps.
On the one side are companies like Nike, one of the city's largest employers. The company employs 8,500 people in Oregon and 26,000 nationwide. Nike says its economic impact on the state of Oregon is $2.5 billion.
And the company promises to add 10,000 jobs and an additional 40,000 indirect and supply chain service jobs if the trade deal is approved.
"We believe agreements that encourage free and fair trade allow Nike to do what we do best: innovate, expand our businesses and drive economic growth," said Mark Parker, Nike's president and CEO.
On the other side are labor unions that argue that the trade accord would repress worker wages and encourage companies — like Nike — to outsource jobs.
Those differences were on display Friday morning as Nike workers, most wearing Nike shoes, lined up to cheer the president. Meanwhile, about a hundred protesters crowded outside and chanted their outrage.
"Nike represents everything about corporate America that stinks," said Andrew Crosby, as he carried a protest sign.
The pact has even split Oregon's senators, both Democrats.
Sen. Ron Wyden is helping lead the charge to pass "fast-track" authority which would grant Obama and future presidents the right to ask for an up-or-down vote in Congress on trade agreements. Obama and supporters say the president needs this authority to better negotiate with other nations.
Opponents worry that such large trade deals deserve vetting by Congress. Sen. Jeff Merkley has said he is "dubious" about the impact of such broad trade accords. [...]