Nike backs Obama on trade with pledge to create 10,000 U.S. jobs
By Jeff Mason
PORTLAND, Oregon May 8 (Reuters) - Sports shoe maker Nike Inc put its weight behind President Barack Obama's push for a trade deal with Asian countries on Friday with a promise to create up to 10,000 U.S.-based manufacturing jobs if the pact is approved.
In an announcement that coincided with a visit by Obama to Nike's Oregon headquarters, the company said footwear tariff relief within the proposed 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement would allow it to speed up investment in "advanced footwear manufacturing" in the United States.
Obama is pressing the U.S. Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority, which would enable him to negotiate international trade deals without the threat of changes by lawmakers.
If TPA is passed and the TPP deal is sealed, Nike said, it would accelerate its U.S. investments and spur as many as 10,000 domestic manufacturing and engineering jobs, thousands of construction jobs, and up to 40,000 jobs elsewhere in its supply chain over 10 years.
Nike has 26,000 employees in the United States and more than 1 million workers in 700 contract factories worldwide that manufacture its shoes. Its top-end soccer and baseball shoes retail for more than $300.
"We believe agreements that encourage free and fair trade allow Nike to do what we do best: innovate, expand our businesses and drive economic growth," said Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker in a media release distributed by the White House.
The company did not say in the media release what it would pay those workers or where the U.S. jobs would be located.
Obama is scheduled to visit Nike's headquarters later on Friday. The trip was designed to help sell the free-trade agreement to skeptical Democrats, who say it will put more American workers out of jobs and cut their wages while enriching companies.
An administration official said Nike approached the White House about the issue, which led to the trip. White House aides have been coy all week about why they chose Nike, which suffered for years from a tarnished image for using Asian sweatshops to make its products.
Imports accounted for as much as 98 percent of the U.S. market for apparel, although that number has fallen slightly, according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association. (Additional reporting by Krista Hughes and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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