Groups react to Obama’s Portland visit


Wine industry supports TPP; Obama hopes speech will sway reluctant allies in Congress.

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BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The Oregon wine industry is throwing its support behind President Barack Obama’s “fast track” trade proposal, which he touted last week when he visited Portland.

From the Associated Press:

“It’s a big world out there, and there (are) a lot of thirsty people,” said Alex Sokol of Sokol Blosser Winery. “Wine is a heavily regulated thing. But if tariffs drop, it will be that much easier and will make us more competitive.”

Obama gave a shout-out to the Dayton-based winery in his speech Friday at Nike’s Beaverton headquarters — spelling out how the trade deal would cut tariffs in Japan, Sokol Blosser’s top export market, and increase sales. The industry has grown substantially in recent years. Planted vineyard acreage in Oregon doubled in the last 10 years to 25,000 acres. According to a study released earlier this year, Oregon’s wine industry now has a $3.3 billion economic impact on the state, including crop values, jobs, services and sales. Wine-related jobs total about 17,000 in the state. That includes direct employment in vineyards, wineries, distribution, retail and restaurants, as well as indirect jobs in production, marketing and distribution.

By alleviating tariffs and other obstacles, the wine industry would experience a boost, the report contends.

Perhaps the biggest deterrent the plan has to overcome is Obama’s allies in Congress as left-wing politicians are contending the plan would hurt middle-class families.

OregonLive.com reports:

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who helped develop the legislation, also came in for presidential praise. The senator did not attend the event, citing other commitments. Wyden is up for re-election next year and his absence also could be a sign of how deeply the trade fight has angered much of the Democratic base. Obama admitted as much, noting that many of his “fellow travelers” on so many issues are “whoopin’ on me” over trade.

“But I tell you what,” Obama added. “I’ve run my last election, and the only reason I do something is because I think it’s good for American workers and the American people and the American economy.”

Nike has emerged as a key player in the plan as it has pledged to create 10,000 manufacturing plans should TPP become law.

From OregonLive.com:

To be sure, the overwhelming majority of jobs making shoes and clothing for Nike would remain overseas even if the plan announced Friday reaches fruition. About 1 million people work in contract factories around the globe, mainly in Asia, assembling the footwear and clothing that led to more than $28 billion in 2014 sales.

But for Nike, the chance to bring home even a fraction of manufacturing jobs would offer a multitude of advantages beyond the 10,000 jobs the endeavor would create. Above all, it would establish the company as an innovator that has used part of its vast resources to invest in groundbreaking technology and not just, as its critics have charged for more than 20 years, as an exploiter of cheap, overseas labor. In its announcement Friday, Nike did not specify what type of manufacturing was planned, be it footwear or apparel. Also, the company did not say where the manufacturing potentially could be located.

Robert Reich, a former U.S. Labor Secretary, disagreed with the president’s message.

From  Salon.

As wages have risen in China, Nike has switched most of its production to Vietnam where wages are less than 60 cents are hour. Almost 340,000 workers cut and assemble Nike products there. In other words, Nike is a global corporation with no particular loyalty or connection to the United States. Its loyalty is to its global shareholders.

I’m not faulting Nike. Nike is only playing by the rules. I’m faulting the rules. Trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership protect corporate investors but lead to even more off-shoring of American jobs.

Reich wrote that “Nike may be the perfect example of life under TPP, but that is not a future many Americans would choose.”

 




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