- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - President Barack Obama’s trip to Oregon Thursday and Friday will highlight trade, an issue that has divided the Democrats in Oregon’s congressional delegation.

The president arrives Thursday afternoon at Portland International Airport and is scheduled to hold a fundraiser that night in Portland for the Democratic National Committee. The next day, he’ll promote free trade at Nike headquarters outside Beaverton.

Obama wants Congress to approve so-called fast-track trade authority, giving him leeway to negotiate an Asia-Pacific trade deal that would be subject only to an up-or-down vote, without amendments, on Capitol Hill. It’s seen as essential to signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the Obama administration is now negotiating.

Many labor unions and other liberal groups have come out forcefully against fast-track authority, and critics are planning to protest outside Obama’s events on Thursday and Friday.

The issue has also divided Oregon Democrats in Congress. Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Peter DeFazio are opposed, saying trade agreements create incentives to export jobs to countries with lower wages and less stringent labor and environmental requirements.

“We always welcome the president to Oregon, but it’s unfortunate in this case that he’s coming to promote policies that will be at the detriment to the vast majority of people in Oregon,” DeFazio told reporters in a conference call Wednesday.

On the other side, Sen. Ron Wyden is a key negotiator on the fast-track legislation, which is also backed by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader. Wyden has said he negotiated trade authority with more time for public review and stronger enforcement standards.

“Opening foreign markets, where most of the world’s consumers reside, is critical to creating new opportunities for middle-class American jobs in Oregon and nationwide,” Wyden said in a statement last month.

Obama’s stop in Washington County highlights Oregon’s employment engine, where multinational corporations including Nike and Intel employ tens of thousands of people.

Obama was last in Oregon on July 25, 2012, when he held a private fundraiser at the Oregon Convention Center. A year earlier, he made a stop in Hillsboro to tour an Intel plant and promote science, technology, engineering and math education.

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