PORTLAND Looking to boost support for a controversial Asian trade deal, Nike on Friday announced that it would add thousands of jobs in the U.S. - if Congress goes along and the deal is finalized with a dozen Asian countries.
Nike made the promise as it was hosting President Barack Obama Friday morning at its Oregon headquarters amid protests and complaints about both the company and the broader trade deal.
The event is meant to highlight trade benefits to the U.S. and overcome opposition in Congress and elsewhere based on arguments that past trade deals have hurt U.S. workers and wages, not helped them.
Nike itself is controversial, with critics charging that it has outsourced jobs offshore at the expense of U.S. workers.
Rep. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said that Nike produces all of its products overseas, and that the trade deal would do nothing to change that.
“This would increase the profits of Nike but do nothing to encourage Nike to create one manufacturing job in this country,” Sanders said.
Looking overseas, Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said the deal would do nothing to improve wages Asians working for Nike.
“Nike would not be required to increase the wages of its 330,000 workers in Vietnam where the minimum wage is 60 cents are hour,” she said.
“Thus, while 95 percent of the world’s population may live outside our borders, with our current trade polices they earn too little to buy American exported goods.”
White House aides said the that Obama was confident the trade deal, and Nike, would boost U.S. jobs if the trade deal went through.
“The president would not be going to one of America’s top companies if they weren’t a testament to how this trade deal would positively impact Americas workforce,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said en route to Oregon Thursday evening.
The company worked to assure skeptics the trade pact would open the door to high paying U.S. jobs.
It said the possible trade deal would remove tariffs on U.S.-produced footwear, allowing the company to speed up development of advanced manufacturing methods here.
That would produce up to 10,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs, Nike said. It also would produce “thousands” of construction jobs, the company said.
As the company developed advanced manufacturing techniques, it said it also would demand a new supply chain, creating another 40,000 jobs.
It stressed that it employs 26,000 people in the U.S. already.