It’s safe to assume Nike (NKE) founder Phil Knight isn’t feeling the Bern.
In a recent interview with USA Today, the 78-year-old said that while he believes “entrepreneurship opportunities in many ways are much better today” than when he started Nike in 1964, the future remains precarious. Despite additional resources such as the increased availability of venture capital, Knight worries the political climate is creating an environment hostile to entrepreneurship. In particular, he’s baffled by the backlash against free trade.
“I do believe that international trade agreements benefit both nations, always,” Knight said, pointing to the North American Free Trade Agreement. “Everybody’s railing on NAFTA now, but since 1996, when we signed NAFTA, the gross national product of the United States has risen three times. Do we really think it would have gone up more than that if we didn’t have trade agreements?”
Republican and Democratic frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the sweeping 12-nation trade deal backed by President Obama, but it’s Bernie Sanders who has made his anti-free trade position a central component to his candidacy. Not only that, Sanders’ beef with Nike is personal — last year, he urged Obama to cancel his visit to Nike’s Beaverton, Ore.-headquarters because the company had “failed American workers” by moving its manufacturing jobs overseas.
“I think it’s a troubling trend to be against international trade,” Knight said. “Hopefully it’s short–lived.”
Check out the full video here.