In a special visit to Norridgewock, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told New Balance executives and factory workers that preserving tariffs that the company says protect its 900 Maine factory jobs will be "one of the more challenging issues" facing trade negotiators, the Bangor Daily News reported.
Currently, the United States is hosting the 14th round of trade negotiations in Leesburg, Va., where two Maine state legislators recently made their case for keeping shoe tariffs that New Balance says are necessary to keep the company's domestic manufacturing operations – including Maine locations in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway – financially viable.
One of those legislators, Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell, told the BDN that keeping the shoe tariffs among the 25% of trade goods protected by tariffs will be "an uphill battle."
So far, Kirk told the crowd Thursday, negotiators have resolved "the least difficult issues."
"How we treat textiles in general, like footwear, is going to be one of the more challenging issues," Kirk said, according to the BDN.
In a press release sent following the visit, Kirk said that American trade representatives "intend to negotiate a high-standard agreement that supports and retains American jobs."