Ivanka Trump’s Chinese Business Interests

Ivanka Trump, daughter and senior advisor to the president of the United States, has received the largest number of new Chinese trademarks in a single month since her father President Donald Trump took office.

Background

Ivana Marie "Ivanka" Trump is an American businesswoman, fashion designer, author and reality television personality. She is the daughter of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. In January 2017 her husband Jared Kushner was appointed Senior Advisor to the President. In March 2017, she began serving in her father's presidential administration. She assumed this official, unpaid position after ethics concerns were raised about her having access to classified material while not being held to the same restrictions as a federal employee.

In early April 2017, the government of China extended trademarks to Trump's businesses. On the same day, Donald Trump-hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-A-Lago and Trump and Kushner sat next to the Chinese leader and his wife Peng Liyuan at the state dinner. 

Also during the visit, Trump and Kushner's five-year-old daughter Arabella sang a traditional Chinese song, in Mandarin, for Xi. The video, which was lavishly praised by Chinese state media, played over 2.2 million times on China's popular news portal, Tencent QQ.

Ivanka Trump continues to have a stake in other family business operations, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington. That’s currently the subject of a lawsuit accusing the president of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution. The clause prohibits federal officials from receiving gifts or benefits from foreign leaders or governments. Several foreign leaders and government entourages have spent significant amounts of money in the president’s hotel.

Analysis

 

President Donald Trump's daughter and senior advisor, Ivanka Trump, last month won initial approval from the Chinese government for 16 new trademarks, covering a wide range of products that include "voting machines.”  The is the largest number of new Chinese trademarks she has received in a single month since her father President Donald Trump took office.

This is the third such instance. In May 2018, she received approval for several new Chinese trademarks a week before President Trump announced that he wanted to lift the ban on the Chinese company ZTE, for violating US sanctions. In 2017, the business received three new Chinese trademarks on the same day she dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The approval for Ivanka Trump's trademarks, which comes three months after she said her personal clothing brand was shutting down, occurred "while her father continues to wage a trade war with China," noted the public interest group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which first reported the approval.

CREW said the approvals, which are only the latest in a series of approvals of trademarks by the Chinese, raises ethics questions: "Since she has retained her foreign trademarks, the public will continue to have to ask whether President Trump has made foreign policy decisions in the interest of his and his family's businesses," "Her trademarks remain a potential conflict of interest as she continues to work on policy in the White House and meet with foreign leaders." The trademarks approved for Ivanka Trump-branded products, which include nursing homes, sausage casing, handbags, shoes, wedding dresses and jewellery, were first applied for in 2016.

This year she shuttered her brand in the face of boycotts and retailers declining to carry her products. The Washington Post reported that Ivanka Trump would retain the copyrights and intellectual property associated with that brand and that she would continue to seek trademarks. The fact that Ivanka Trump’s brand will continue to seek new trademarks in spite of shutting down leaves open the possibility that she could resume her business after leaving her role in the White House. She retains ownership over all of her existing trademarks, and many of her trademarks will remain active as late as 2028.

CREW, in its report, pointed out two coincidences when China approved past Ivanka Trump trademarks. In May 2018, Ivanka Trump's business received approval for several new Chinese trademarks a week before President Trump announced that he wanted to lift the ban on the Chinese company ZTE, for violating US sanctions.

In 2017, the business received three new Chinese trademarks on the same day she dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Assessment

Our assessment is that granting the latest trademarks could be viewed as a way for China to curry favour with the Trump administration amid a trade war between the two nations.