While President Donald J. Trump continues to pound his chest about China’s unfair trade practices, a company owned by one of his closest advisers is making significant inroads in the world’s second largest economy.
It is noteworthy that the adviser happens to be President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
It is also of public interest that China decided Sunday to grant Ivanka Trump’s business final approval for yet another trademark for her brand of products. The approval comes in the wake the president’s decision not to make good on his much-heralded threat to impose $150 billion in tariffs.
And, it comes on the heels of the U.S. reaching a deal on ZTE Corp. that will allow the Chinese telecommunications giant to remain in business.
Trump had bemoaned the possibility of ZTE shutting its doors, saying that too many Chinese workers would be at risk of losing their jobs. That public concern for workers in a nation he harshly condemned during the 2016 presidential campaign grabbed headlines around the world.
After all, one of the reasons Republican Trump succeeded in winning over blue-collar voters who traditionally vote Democratic was his protectionist stance on global trade.
Trump harshly criticized his predecessors, both Republicans and Democrats, for letting China amass a $337 billion trade surplus with the U.S.
He promised to hold China’s feet to the fire.
But last week, the president changed his tune, saying a “different structure” would be needed in trade talks involving the world’s two largest economies.
The details of the new approach to trade with China have not been shared with the American people, but if the deals Ivanka Trump’s company have made in China and the Philippines are any indication, the get-tough approach on trade is changing.
On Sunday, China granted the first daughter’s company final approval for its 13th trademark in the last three months. Over the same period, the Chinese government granted her company provisional approval for another eight trademarks, which can be finalized if no objections are raised during the three-month comment period, the Associated Press reported.
Taken together, the trademarks could allow her brand to market a lifetime’s worth of products in China, from baby blankets to coffins, and a host of things in between, including perfume, make-up, bowls, mirrors, furniture, books, coffee, chocolate and honey, according to the wire service.
Ivanka Trump stepped back from management of her brand and placed its assets in a family-run trust, but she continues to profit from the business, the AP reported.
Therein lies the problem that objective observers warned about when Donald Trump and members of his family transitioned from the private sector to the public sector.
As the billionaire real estate developer from New York City often boasted, the Trump brand is global. Through licensing deals, he pursued trademarks in dozens of countries.
His daughter has also turned the Trump brand into gold.
Is there any doubt that the president’s supporters who have been silent about the apparent conflicts of interest would have screamed bloody murder had former President Barack Obama played such footsies with the Chinese?
At some point, Congress must take seriously the concerns voiced by many people in and out of government.
The Associated Press notes that global trademarks have drawn the attention of ethics lawyers because they are granted by foreign governments and can confer significant value.
President Trump and members of his family who have reaped enormous benefits from the global branding of the name should not be surprised by the intense scrutiny of their business practices.
However, when such practices piggybacks on the trade and foreign policies pursued by the president, there is cause for concern.
Given these developments, we aren’t surprised the Trump administration announced Tuesday it plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion – not $150 billion – worth of Chinese products.
The key word is “plans,” which means there could be a change of heart – again.