- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2015

Pitching a free-trade deal with Asia at the headquarters of Nike, President Obama said Friday that Democrats who oppose the agreement are “just wrong.”

“On this issue, on trade, I actually think some of my dearest friends are wrong,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re just wrong. On every progressive issue, they’re right there with me, but on this one, they’re like, whooping on me.”

Mr. Obama visited the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon, to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sprawling free-trade deal with 11 other Pacific rim countries. Many Democratic lawmakers oppose granting Mr. Obama trade-promotion authority, which would require Congress to vote up or down on the agreement without amending it.

The Senate is expected to take up the legislation next week.

The president, acknowledging that the North American Free Trade Agreement of the 1990s led to job losses in the U.S., said the TPP is “a different kind of trade deal” because it contains “strong, enforceable provisions” for protecting workers and the environment.

“It’s the highest standard, most progressive trade deal in history,” Mr. Obama said.

But Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group that opposes the TPP, said the agreement contains “the same failed standards as those in President Bush’s last trade agreements, not new or unprecedented.”

The president also touted the announcement Friday by Nike CEO Mark Parker that the company will create up to 10,000 jobs in the U.S. over the next decade if TPP is ratified.

“This deal would be a good thing. So let’s just do it,” said Mr. Obama, quoting the company’s signature slogan.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s global trade watch, said the promise of Nike to create 10,000 jobs over 10 years “pales” in comparison with the company slashing 5,500 jobs in the U.S. last year alone.

Mr. Obama said Democrats and their union allies are understandably wary of the impact of free-trade agreements such as NAFTA.

“I know a lot of folks are skeptical about trade,” he said. “Some of our manufacturing base shifted over the last 25 years. There was real displacement and real pain. For many Americans, this is not an abstraction. But we’ve got to learn the right lessons from that. If any agreement undercuts working families, I won’t sign it.”

The head of the progressive advocacy group Democracy for America blasted Mr. Obama’s “shilling” for the free-trade deal.

“The only thing weaker than sweatshop-king Nike’s empty promises is the White House’s willingness to hype them as a victory in its push for a trade deal that will make it easier for other huge corporations to ship more U.S. jobs overseas, sell tainted food products in our supermarkets, and challenge our laws in foreign tribunals,” DFA Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said.

And the AFL-CIO said Nike’s promise of job creation “should not be contingent on a possible trade deal.”

“We have heard similar promises from companies before, and very few have panned out,” said spokesman Eric Hauser. “We hope this time is different. Decades of experience have taught us that corporate-driven trade policy too often accelerates a global race to the bottom.”

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