03-20-2018  10:10 pm      •     
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Oregon Gov Kate Brown welcomes President Obama
Sheila V Kumar, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — President Barack Obama got cheers from people lining downtown Portland streets as he arrived Thursday for a two-day visit but also drew protests from a small crowd of activists opposed to a planned trade deal.

Air Force One landed at Portland International Airport late in the afternoon. Obama was greeted by Gov. Kate Brown and other Oregon dignitaries before traveling by motorcade to a downtown hotel to attend a fundraiser for Democrats.

People on the street cheered as the motorcade passed.

A couple of hundred protesters gathered near the Sentinel Hotel. Many were there to voice their opposition to Obama's request to Congress for "fast track" trade authority that would give him leeway to negotiate an Asia-Pacific trade deal that would be subject only to an up-or-down vote, without amendments.

Many labor unions and other liberal groups have come out against fast-track authority. They say free-trade agreements encourage companies to relocate American jobs to countries with weaker labor and environmental standards.

The protesters were noisy but peaceful. They chanted slogans against fast track and the planned trade deal.

Among them was 72-year-old Douglas Yarrow of Portland.

Yarrow said the proposed trade deal was a "symptom of our poor old country, which is supposed to be a democracy, but if you've got money it outweighs my vote."

Also among the protesters was Anthony Bencivengo, a 19-year-old student at Reed College.

"Basically I think Obama has been a really good president," he said, but on the issue of the proposed trade deal, "he's really just wrong."

"The fast-track option is just really harmful to democracy," he said. "And that's not the way a major trade agreement should be passed."

Obama was to talk about free trade Friday morning at Nike headquarters in nearby Beaverton.

This is Obama's fourth visit to Oregon since he became president.

Obama was last in Oregon in July 2012 to raise money while campaigning for re-election. A year earlier, he made a stop in Hillsboro to tour an Intel Corp. microprocessor factory and promote science, technology, engineering and math education.

On his first trip as president, in October 2010, he campaigned for John Kitzhaber — a visit that's credited with helping the Democrat eke out a victory over Republican Chris Dudley in the campaign for governor that year. Kitzhaber resigned in February over an influence-peddling scandal surrounding his fiancee.

Obama has been a popular figure in Oregon since he visited during his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. His speech before the May primary drew tens of thousands of people to Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. At the time, it was the largest crowd Obama had attracted on his way to winning the presidency.

In the 2008 election, Obama carried Oregon over Republican John McCain with 57 percent of the vote. Four years later, he defeated Mitt Romney with 54 percent support.

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