President Barack Obama to argue that a 12-nation Pacific trade deal and the fast-track legislation needed to finalize the pact are good for workers during his visit to Nike Inc headquarters in Oregon on Friday.
But disagreements over the deal between President Barack Obama and parts of his own party escalated this week, as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe landed in Washington to promote ongoing negotiations. His fellow Democrats in Congress fear the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade deal could hurt American jobs and the environment.
Out of the 11 nations with whom the U.S. Trade Authority has been negotiating the partnership, Japan’s is the largest economy.
Obama will use the trip to the headquarters of Nike, a company once criticized for its use of "sweatshops," to "discuss how workers will benefit from progressive, high-standards trade agreements that would open up new markets and support high-quality jobs," the White House said in a statement.
Nike was targeted by labor activists in the early 1990s for contracting with factories in Asia where workers faced dangerous conditions and low pay. The criticism prompted the company to create a code of conduct for contractors and open factories for inspections.
Obama has made the TPP a key part of his effort to rebalance his foreign policy to Asia to counter China's economic might. Once in force, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would account for about 40 percent of the world’s economic output. It’s aimed at opening up trade by removing tariffs and other barriers. It also deals with labor standards, investments and patents, among other issues.
Obama is trying to win renewal of fast-track negotiating authority that would make it harder for the Congress to change any deal once an agreement is reached. But many Democrats warn that an Asian trade pact would cost American jobs, and wouldn’t include enough environmental protections.
The deal would include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The White House believes that once the bilateral trade agreement with Japan is secured, the negotiations on the broader TPP will be largely complete.
However, officials also have to resolve a few sensitive market issues, such as barriers to dairy, cars and agriculture trade, as well as disagreements over the intellectual property rules and the role of state-owned enterprises in Vietnam and Malaysia.
The Obama administration is hoping to get a deal in coming weeks or months so that it can see a final vote in Congress before the presidential politics of 2016.