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President heads to Nike, but Sen. Wyden (trade pact co-sponsor) won't be there

TRIBUNE PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ
PHOTOS BY DIEGO G DIAZ

TRIBUNE PHOTO: DIEGO G DIAZ - Dozens of people protested several issues, including a proposed fast-track trade agrement and a proposed Canadian oil pipeline, near the Sentinel Hotel on Southwest 11th Avenue Thursday evening during a Democratic Party fundraiser featuring a speech by President Obama.When President Obama speaks at Nike’s Washington County campus Friday morning to talk up a fast-track trade proposal, he’ll be flanked by a handful of local businesses and members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici.

Who won’t be there? U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the chief sponsors of the trade promotion authority legislation in the Senate.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schlutz told reporters flying to Oregon Thursday afternoon that Wyden was invited to Friday morning’s event, but isn’t expected to show up. “You’ll have to check with his office for his schedule,” Schultz told reporters.

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden won't be at the President's event Friday at Nike, even though he is a co-sponsor of trade promotion authority legislation in the Senate.Why won’t Wyden be in Portland with the President? Schedules did not work out, said Hank Stern, Wyden’s spokesman.

Schultz told reporters President Obama would be “joined by representatives from a multitude of small businesses in the area who also would benefit from a trade deal because of their heavy reliance on exports that helps them grow jobs here at home.”

“Nike is not alone in recognizing the economic benefits of what a trade deal would mean to American workers and American jobs,” Schultz said. “As you know, 95 percent of the world’s customers are outside our borders, so it’s important for U.S. companies to be able to sell to those markets.”

Markets of the future

President Obama came to Portland Thursday evening to speak at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Sentinel Hotel, where about 300 people who paid up to $33,400 each, were part of a friendly audience.

Democratic Party officials declined to say how much money was raised at the event.

During his 26-minute speech, Obama said he was pushing the trade agreement “to put people back to work” and “to make sure we are accessing the markets of the future.”

“We’ve got the best workers in the world, the best universities in the world, the most innovative companies in the world, the best science and research in the world. So we are not afraid of competition,” Obama said. “We are concerned if the playing field is not level. And that’s why we’ve got to have the kinds of enforceable, tough, fair trade deals that are going to make sure that American workers and American businesses aren’t locked out of these markets. That’s part of a middle class economic agenda. And it is a priority for us. We’ve got to make sure it happens.”

TRIBUNE PHOTO: DIEGO G. DIAZ
TRIBUNE PHOTO: DIEGO G DIAZ - Protesters were kept at a distance Thursday evening as President Obama spoke at a Democratic Party fundraiser in downtown Portland.

Learning lessons

Schultz and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said this week that the trade promotion authority, sometimes called “fast track,” allows the president to reach reciprocal agreements to cut barriers to trade. The agreement will “level the playing field” for businesses large and small that rely on exports, Earnest said Wednesday during a phone call with Portland-area reporters.

“We know there’s a tremendous economic potential with these trade agreements,” Earnest told reporters.

Wyden is co-sponsor with Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, of S. 995, known as Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. The bill was introduced April 16 and referred April 22 to the Senate Finance Committee, where Wyden is the ranking Democratic member.

Labor unions and progressive groups have protested the trade proposal, saying it does little to protect middle-class families and could allow companies to ship more jobs out of the country.

Earnest said the protests were “reflexive opposition to any kind of agreement,” based on past agreements that did not include enough safeguards.

“We can learn the lessons from those previous agreements to ensure that we are writing agreements to benefit middle-class families,” Earnest told reporters. “If your concern is that too many companies have left the U.S. seeking another country, doing nothing simply locks in the status quo. There’s no opportunity to bring those companies back to the United States.”

White House press pool reports by Mike Memoli, Steven Thomma and Jeff Mapes contributed to this story.

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