Former Gov. Angus King is calling for the continuation of trade protections for athletic footwear during a visit to New Balance factory in Skowhegan on Tuesday.

King, an independent candidate for U.S. Senate, is scheduled to visit a New Balance facility in Skowhegan to discuss U.S. trade policy, according to his campaign. The company employs more than 900 people at its Maine athletic shoe factories and has 3,000 employees nationwide.

King said in the news release that ongoing trade talks with Vietnam are causing concern that the U.S. may eliminate a tariff on imported athletic footwear. In a written statement, King said the tariff is needed to preserve fairness in trade rules and protect jobs at New Balance.

“To even contemplate – let alone actively negotiate – a step that would result in jobs being lost anywhere in the country – in this fragile economy is simply unacceptable. I believe these negotiations should be put on hold until our economy strengthens – and the idea of dropping this vital protection for American jobs should be put on hold indefinitely. Eliminating the tariff on athletic footwear creates an uneven playing field that makes it impossible for this company and others across the country to compete. There are more than 900 jobs at stake in Maine and it would be a terrible blow to the region and the state if these jobs are lost,” King said.

Matt LeBretton, director of public affairs at New Balance Athletic Shoe, said the company is the only domestic manufacturer of athletic shoes in the U.S.

“We are thankful that Gov. King has embraced the ideal of fair trade in any free trade agreement and look forward to working with him now and in the future,” LeBretton said in a written statement.

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