For weeks now, the White House press corps has been asking why President Obama chose Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. to deliver a speech promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, when that company’s history of offshoring and low labor standards is exactly the poster child for opposition to the deal. Press Secretary Josh Earnest and his deputies gave general answers about the benefits of the deal, and told reporters to wait and see. On Friday, that wait was over.
Timed to his visit at their headquarters, Nike announced, via press release, that completion of the TPP deal would allow the company to create jobs in America again. How many jobs? Well, more than 50, but less than the million they’ve sent overseas:
Footwear tariff relief would allow Nike to accelerate development of new advanced manufacturing methods and a domestic supply chain to support U.S. based manufacturing.
This advanced manufacturing model is expected to lead to the creation of up to 10,000 manufacturing and engineering jobs in addition to thousands of construction jobs and up to 40,000 indirect supply chain and service jobs in the United States over the next decade.
On the heels of an April jobs report that saw 223,000 new jobs added and the unemployment rate drop to 5.4%, President Obama took the stage in Beaverton to brag on the Nike announcement, and to once again address critics of the trade deal. On that last count, he really brought the heat, accusing opponents like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) of “making this stuff up”:
“Critics warn this would undermine regulation. even financial regulation. They are making this stuff up. This is just not true. No trade agreement will force us to change our laws. This agreement would make sure our companies aren’t discriminated against in other countries. We already treat companies from other countries fairly here. Our companies don’t always get treated fairly there. Sometimes they need some way to settle disputes where they’re not subject to the whims of some government bureaucrat in that country.”
These are not the hardest swipes President Obama has taken at progressive critics of TPP, but they are an indication that he doesn’t intend to let up anytime soon. When he says “I’ve run my last campaign,” what he’s really saying is that he truly is all out of political qualms, let’s say.
Much of what President Obama said Friday has been said before, so the key difference here appears to be the symbolism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership bringing Nike jobs back to the United States, a Prodigal Son parable for trade. As aces-in-the-hole go, 50,000 jobs doesn’t seem like much, especially when weighed against the million workers Nike employs overseas. As President Obama says, it is a step in the right direction, but the real test of TPP will be whether its enforceable labor provisions really succeed in lifting standards in the region, and make it less attractive for U.S. businesses to manufacture elsewhere.
Here’s video of President Obama’s full remarks at Nike headquarters: