Obama pauses during remarks at the Civil Society Forum in Panama City

Battle for Oregon highlights Obama's free-trade challenge

Obama pauses during remarks at the Civil Society Forum in Panama CityBy Krista Hughes and Shelby Sebens WASHINGTON/PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) – It is crunch time for President Barack Obama’s push to finalize an ambitious Pacific free trade pact and anyone wondering why it is such a tough sell may want to talk to the people of Oregon. This West Coast state of 4 million people, which hosts major operations of global giants Nike Inc and Intel Corp, exemplifies the nation’s ambiguity about free trade and shows the battle lines between its advocates and critics. With 44 percent of Oregon’s exports already heading to the Trans Pacific Partnership countries and an estimated one in five jobs dependent on trade, local businesses are lobbying for the 12-nation pact that would stretch from Japan to Chile, covering 40 percent of the world economy. “We understand that it’s a necessary thing, you have to have trade, you have to be able to put your products in other markets,” says John Kleiboeker, 45, Boeing Co worker of 18 years and machinists’ union president at the aircraft maker’s Gresham factory east of Portland.

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