- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2015

Progressives will protest President Obama’s visit Friday to Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, as opposition intensifies on the left to the president’s proposed free-trade deal with Asia.

The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, founded by labor and environmental groups, will hold a “rally for Oregon jobs” Friday morning at Nike’s campus as Mr. Obama gives a speech promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The group said in a statement that Nike, with less than 1 percent of its more than one million production jobs located in the U.S., “perfectly depicts America’s lost-jobs and low-wage future under the TPP.”

As Mr. Obama tries to convince Democratic lawmakers to support trade legislation, a poll released Thursday also showed that most voters in 16 selected House districts held by Democrats oppose the deal, and believe such agreements lead to job losses in the U.S.

The survey by Lake Research Partners, conducted for the Coalition to Stop Fast Track, found that voters in each of the targeted districts from Connecticut to California oppose granting Mr. Obama trade-promotion authority by margins of anywhere from 2 to 31 percentage points. They include Maryland’s 5th Congressional District, held by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, where 46 percent oppose the deal, 32 percent support it, and 23 percent are unsure.

“Voters are likely to be responsive to messages criticizing members of Congress that support the TPP with fast track authority,” wrote pollsters Celinda Lake, David Mermin and Matt McDermott. “As Congress tries to pass fast track authority within the next few weeks that there is not enough time to ‘fill in the blanks,’ i.e., convince the unsure, much less to overcome the persuasion gap that currently exists among those who have already made up their minds.”

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Some Democrats say they want to hold out on giving Mr. Obama trade-promotion authority as a bargaining chip for other priorities, such as extending the Highway Trust Fund and modifying U.S. surveillance laws.

“It’s really, really important not to give up our leverage,” said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, at a breakfast Thursday sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “Trade is not the only reason there has been income stagnation in this country, but it’s one of them.”

The administration also came under fire from liberals Thursday after White House officials anonymously criticized Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat who opposes the trade pact.

A spokesman for the liberal advocacy group Democracy for America said White House aides are “worried that any delay in passing the job-killing TPP might hurt their post-White House shot at a sweet K Street payday.”

“Progressive leaders stand up to the powerful and speak out for working families because it’s the right thing to do, not because of what they might get in return,” said DFA spokesman Neil Sroka. “By standing up to the White House against fast track and the TPP, Senator Warren is demonstrating precisely the kind of fearless progressive leadership our country desperately needs and that’s why hundreds of thousands of Americans are calling on her to run for president, not the other way around.”

Anonymous White House aides were quoted by Politico on Thursday saying that Mrs. Warren’s criticism of the trade deal is “desperate” and “baseless,” and suggesting that she is attacking free trade to energize the liberal “Draft Warren” movement that wants her to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 against Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Most Republican lawmakers support granting the president fast-track authority to complete negotiations on TPP swiftly. Mr. Obama is trying to persuade Democrats with the argument that the agreement will boost middle-class jobs through higher exports, and that it will raise labor standards in the 11 other nations involved.

The president is also claiming that TPP’s labor standards will be more meaningful than in previous free-trade agreements because the provisions are enforceable. But liberal groups are pointing to the U.S. having a poor record of enforcing labor provisions in previous free-trade deals.

The Government Accountability Office said last November that the Labor Department had received five formal complaints of possible labor law violations with U.S. trading partners since 2008, but only one had been resolved. The trade pacts accounted for more than 35 percent of all U.S. imports in 2013, the report said.

The U.S. “lacked a strategic approach to systematically assess whether partner countries’ conditions and practices are inconsistent with labor provisions in the FTAs,” GAO said.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said TPP would not require Nike to increase the wages of its 330,000 workers in Vietnam, where she said the minimum wage is 60 cents per hour.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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