NORRIDGEWOCK — No more toxic trade deals that outsource American jobs.

That was the message Wednesday outside the New Balance Athletic Shoe factory in Norridgewock, where longtime activist Kim Cormier, of Benton, stood with placards opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the dirtiest trade deal that no one has ever heard of,” Cormier, a former Benton selectwoman and a member of the Occupy Augusta movement, said. Cormier was among those convicted of criminal trespass in 2012 for refusing police orders to leave the grounds of the governor’s residence in November 2011.

“It’s been negotiated in secret for about four years and Congress just got the full text recently,” Cormier said. “Obama supports — it’s like a death knell — like NAFTA times 10.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a 12-nation agreement intended to create jobs in the U.S. by increasing exports of industrial goods, agricultural products and textiles to parts of Asia and the Pacific Rim. However, the agreement also could lift some tariffs, or import duties, on goods including athletic footwear, making imported, foreign-made shoes cheaper to buy than those made in the U.S., a move that would affect New Balance directly.

Officials at Massachusetts-based New Balance, which has factories in Skowhegan, Oxford and Norridgewock, said in June they remain cautiously optimistic that the trade pact will have provisions to protect U.S. jobs after the Senate passed “fast track” legislation that makes it easier for the president to negotiate the deal.


President Barack Obama this week published an editorial essay outlining his support of the trade pact, saying “it’s a trade deal that helps working families get ahead.”

The president said his top priority is to grow the economy and strengthen the middle class, and the TPP does just that. He said 95 percent of potential customers of American goods live outside the U.S., and the agreement will open up new markets for made-in-America goods and services.

Exports support 11.7 million American jobs, the president said.

“Companies that sell their goods around the world tend to grow faster, hire more employees and pay higher salaries than companies that don’t,” he said. “On average, export-supported jobs pay up to 18 percent more than other jobs.”

U.S. manufacturers oppose the trade pact because it is likely to increase imports, such as athletic shoes made in Vietnam, and therefore increase competition for American-made goods.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman plan to hold an on-the-record news conference call at 1:30 p.m. Thursday to highlight the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the economies of each of the 50 states, according to a White House news release.


Outside New Balance on Wednesday, Cormier, with fellow protester Clark Miller, waved to workers ending their shift at 3 p.m. Many workers in turn tooted their horns supporting their opposition to the trade pact.

Cormier’s sign read “Flush the TPP,” referring employees to a website and urging them to join the opposition by emailing or calling members of the Maine congressional delegation.

“It has great potential to shift American jobs overseas, especially manufacturing jobs,” Miller said. “New Balance is a local manufacturer. They employ our friends and neighbors. It’s not only New Balance; it’s any manufacturing facility we have in Maine and everywhere else.”

New Balance makes more than 1.6 million pairs of athletic shoes per year. The company employs about 900 workers in Maine. It is the last major footwear manufacturer still making some of its product line in the U.S.

Matt LeBretton, vice president of public affairs at New Balance corporate offices in Boston, said the company was not going to comment Wednesday. He said in June that Maine’s congressional delegation — past and present — has helped make progress with the Obama administration on the company’s concerns, but the company continues to reserve judgment on the agreement until the final document is released.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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