(Adds details, background on trade debate)
By Jeff Mason
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, May 7 (Reuters) - The White House declined to say on Thursday whether Nike Inc would be making a company announcement to coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to the company’s Oregon headquarters on Friday.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday that Nike “is likely to make its own manufacturing announcement” on Friday “around the time that Obama speaks at the Nike headquarters.” The newspaper did not provide a source for the assertion.
Asked whether Nike would be making an announcement to coincide with Obama’s visit, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said: “I‘m going to let Nike share their news when they’re available to do so.”
Nike officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Obama is slated to make a major pitch on Friday for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, at Nike, a venue that has sparked curiosity, since the company produces its famous sneakers in lower-cost contract factories in Asia.
White House officials have declined to say why they chose to highlight the company among Oregon exporters.
Obama’s push to pass “fast-track” trade legislation, which would enable him to finalize the TPP deal, faces resistance from fellow Democrats who worry it could push U.S. jobs overseas where labor is cheaper.
The TPP would boost annual U.S. economic output by $77.5 billion, a tiny proportion of the $17 trillion economy.
Obama has pledged the deal will include tough labor and environmental protections. Skeptical unions and environmental groups have organized protests outside Nike for Obama’s visit.
Nike employs 26,000 people in the United States, but that number is dwarfed by the more than 1 million workers in 700 contract factories worldwide who manufacture its shoes.
In 2012, Nike promised to create 500 jobs in Oregon for a $2 billion break from state taxes over 30 years. It said it added 2,084 jobs between January 2012 and September 2014.
Nike’s image was tarnished by revelations of sweatshop conditions and abuse in the 1990s. It has worked to clean up its image, but problems remain.
It was recently hit by a strike at a factory in Vietnam that is a contract manufacturer. There was a strike at one of its Chinese suppliers in March. (Reporting by Jeff Mason and Krista Hughes; Writing by Roberta Rampton and Julia Edwards; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)