The President’s Trade Speech At Nike Prompts A Simple Question

Dave Johnson

Speaking at Nike’s headquarters today, President Obama said this about the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

“So when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually, for the first time, have to raise its labor standards. It would have to set a minimum wage. It would have to pass safe workplace laws to protect its workers. It would even have to protect workers’ freedom to form unions – for the very first time. That would make a difference.”

Nike manufactures in Vietnam, and profits from Vietnamese workers being paid little and having few rights. If what the president says is true, then why would Nike be for it?

Simple question: Why would Nike favor a trade deal that raises its labor costs?

Meanwhile, Lori Wallach at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch issued this memo to reporters today in response to Nike’s promise that if Congress approved the TPP, Nike would create up to 10,000 American jobs. An excerpt:

Nike’s stating that accelerating advanced manufacturing research “is expected to lead to the creation of up to” 10,000 U.S. jobs over the next decade – while it cut 5,500 U.S. manufacturing jobs in the last year – pales in comparison to the U.S. jobs that would be lost under the TPP’s offshoring incentives. Nike’s job creation claim mimics the broken job creation promises that U.S. corporations made to push the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other past controversial trade pacts, only to turn around and offshore U.S. jobs after the pacts took effect. …

The American jobs Nike claims it aims to create are a drop in the bucket compared to the massive number of jobs that would be lost nationwide if the TPP is enacted because it gives companies incentives to offshore. It’s like saying let’s take ONE step forward, and 10,000 steps back. …

And to put Nike’s announcement into context, the corporation has over a million workers producing its goods overseas – meaning even if all of the “up to” 10,000 jobs it hopes will result from its advanced manufacturing initiative are in manufacturing, only 2 percent of Nike’s production would be in the United States. Nike’s announcement also gives it a lot of wiggle room, simply stating that speeding up research it is now doing is expected to lead to creation of “up to” 10,000 jobs.

We also want to set the record straight: the TPP’s labor and environmental standards are the same failed standards as those in President Bush’s last trade agreements, NOT new or unprecedented. In 2007, congressional Democrats forced Bush, for the first time, to put labor and environmental standards in the core text of his Peru, Colombia, Panama and Korea pacts. These terms were enforceable through the same process as the pacts’ commercial terms. Last year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a comprehensive study showing that those terms had failed to improve conditions on the ground in countries where they applied. That’s why so many members of Congress who unsuccessfully attempted to convince the Obama administration to strengthen those Bush-era terms for the TPP and who, unlike the public, have seen the agreement’s text, oppose Fast Tracking the TPP.

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