Obama's appearance at the headquarters of the giant athletic-wear company illustrates the competing, sometimes contradictory goals of trade and how one industry, footwear makers in particular, can encapsulate the debate that is churning around Obama's efforts to negotiate a Trans-Pacific agreement that would open up commerce among the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries.
"I know a lot of folks are skeptical about trade," Obama acknowledged. "Past trade deals didn't always live up to the hype. Labor and environmental protections weren't always strong enough."
He said this agreement is in America's best interest. "Just do it," Obama said, echoing Nike's slogan.
Nike makes most of its shoes overseas. Of Nike's slightly more than 1 million factory contract workers, more than 9 of 10 are in Asia. The largest number is in Vietnam, one of the countries in the Trans-Pacific talks.
The U.S. has tariffs on footwear imports that average about 10 percent.
Reducing tariffs in the U.S. and in other countries that are part of the Trans-Pacific deal, Nike says, would allow it to manufacture more shoes in the U.S. It announced Friday that if the Trans-Pacific deal is approved, Nike and its U.S. manufacturing partners would create up to 10,000 jobs over 10 years in the United States. Nike said they would be manufacturing and engineering jobs.