- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covers international finance. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com.
President Donald Trump is growing his brand in China.
According to a report from the Associated Press, the Chinese government has approved nine Trump trademarks it had earlier rejected, in whole or in part. The latest development is likely to add to the growing controversy over Trump’s potential conflicts of interest, and especially charges that he could be in violation of the emolument clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is supposed to prevent a sitting president from gaining a financial benefit from foreign nations.
There are now three lawsuits alleging the president is violating the Constitution by refusing to put his assets into a blind trust; Trump has put his son in charge of managing his many business dealings. Trump’s new Washington hotel is a particular sore spot, since many visiting delegations stay there. One was filed by nearly 200 Congressional Democrats Wednesday; a joint one was filed by the attorney generals of Washington, D.C. and Maryland; and a similar suit was filed by the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Benefitting from foreign governments, whether through hotel bills or the granting of trademarks, lie at the center of all these cases. In the case of the China trademarks, records don’t show why these requests were initially rejected or why they were reconsidered.
According to AP, Trump now has the potential rights to use Chinese versions of Trump-branded socks, advertising, and beauty salon services, among other products. He has the English-language rights to services like watch repair and jewelry he can use in the future. A New York Times review of 10 trademark databases in April showed that Trump’s company, now run by his two adult sons, has 157 trademark applications pending in 36 countries.
Beijing has now granted 39 Trump trademarks since the president took office. It has also granted his daughter, Ivanka, at least seven new trademarks since she joined her father’s White House. There has also been scrutiny into her Chinese factories, after labor-rights activists were detained while inspecting one of the plants where Ivanka-branded shoes are made.
Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten said the company “has not authorized anyone to discuss and is not aware of anyone having discussed Donald J. Trump’s status as either a presidential candidate, President-elect or President of the United States with any representative of the Chinese government in charge of or with the authority to grant trademarks,” Garten wrote in a June 9 letter to eight Democratic senators who have raised concerns about conflicts of interest due to Trump’s business dealings there.
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