NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Before entering trade negotiations with countries like China and Vietnam, President Obama's Trade Ambassador made a trip to Maine to see the people -- and shoes -- that could be affected.
Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk toured the Norridgewock New Balance Plant and spoke with employees Thursday morning.
He took questions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multination free trade agreement that could mean lifting a tariff on foreign footwear made in countries such as China, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Kirk explained the pros and cons of such an agreement, arguing the free trade agreement could help the US move into more global markets, increasing exports and supporting more American jobs.
But New Balance CEO Rob DeMartini said he is worried that plan will backfire and take away any competitive edge and American shoe company might have.
"It would have a significant impact on our ability to be competitive, and it would put a lot more profit into our competitors pocket that they would use against our domestic manufacturer," said DeMartini.
But Kirk said competitng interests can find a middle ground, admitting to New Balance employees it's a difficult balance to strike.
"It's a delicate dance, but it can be done," he said.
"Our guiding principle in this administration is trade should be a tool that suports job growth and manufacturing here in this country, rather than creating a perverse incentive to send it everywhere else," said Kirk.
TPP negotiations are on-going, and Kirk said it could be another year until stakeholders agree on a tariff decision.
New Balance employs about 900 people in Maine, between plants in Norridgewock, Norway, and Skowhegan.