Nike backs Obama on trade with pledge to create 10,000 U.S. jobs

By Jeff Mason

PORTLAND, Oregon (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 coinciding 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.

“It creates an opportunity for us to create jobs, to drive economic growth for the company, and to really push innovation – not just in terms of what shoes we make or what apparel – but actually how we make those products,” Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker said in an interview on CNBC.

The company had no immediate details on whether it would build new plants, how soon the jobs would come on line, how much workers might be paid or what kind of shoes would be produced 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.

He has support from Republicans, but many Democrats have balked, worried the deal will put more Americans out of work and cut their wages while enriching companies.

If the TPP deal is sealed, Nike said it planned to create as many as 10,000 domestic manufacturing and engineering jobs. The investment would also lead to thousands of construction jobs, and support up to 40,000 jobs elsewhere in its supply chain over 10 years, Nike said in a release distributed by the White House.

Nike has 26,000 U.S. employees 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.

Obama is scheduled to speak at Nike’s headquarters at 1215 ET on Friday.

Parker said Nike would give Obama a one-of-a-kind pair of red, white and blue “Air Force One” sneakers to commemorate the visit.

An administration official said Nike approached the White House about the trade deal issues, which led to the trip. White House aides had 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.

(Additional reporting by Krista Hughes and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Ted Botha)

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