As US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) dined on Dover sole and New York strip steak earlier this month, thousands of kilometers away in China a government office quietly approved trademarks that could benefit the US president’s family.
On the day the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, met the Chinese president, China granted preliminary approval for three new trademarks for her namesake brand, covering jewelry, bags and spa services, according to official documents.
Her company, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, has been granted four additional trademarks since her father’s inauguration and has 32 pending, according to The Associated Press, which first reported the new approvals.
Donald Trump’s White House has created a minefield of ethics concerns, according to critics, and the president and his top officials represent one of the wealthiest Cabinets in history, with business empires spanning the globe.
Ivanka Trump was appointed assistant to the US president last month.
Ivanka Trump no longer manages her clothing, jewelry and accessories brand, but still owns the business. She has put it in a trust, run by other family members.
“Ivanka has so many China ties and conflicts, yet she and [husband] Jared [Kushner] appear deeply involved in China contacts and policy. I would never have allowed it,” said Norman Eisen, a former chief White House ethics lawyer under former US president Barack Obama. “For their own sake, and the country’s, Ivanka and Jared should consider stepping away from China matters.”
US law prohibits government officials from handling government matters that could enrich their business or their spouse’s. Ivanka Trump’s products are made almost entirely in China and US policy on trade or the Chinese currency could benefit her financially.
“The federal ethics rules do not require you to recuse from any matter concerning a foreign country just because a business that you have an ownership interest in has a trademark application pending there,” Jamie Gorelick, Ivanka Trump’s lawyer, said in a statement. “Ivanka will recuse from particular matters where she has a conflict of interest or where the White House counsel determines her participation would present appearance or impartiality concerns.”
Ivanka Trump has been on a charm offensive with China over the past few months, often with her Mandarin-learning daughter in tow. Her five-year-old daughter, Arabella, sang a traditional song for Xi during his US visit and the performance was later praised in Chinese state media.
The two also attended a Lunar New Year celebration at the Chinese embassy in Washington.
Shortly after his election in November last year and after a decade fighting in court, Donald Trump was granted trademark protection for his name in the construction industry. In February, the Trump name was granted an additional 38 trademarks for a range of uses including hotels, insurance and bodyguard services.
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