Ivanka Trump won a new batch of trademarks this month in China for a range of items from chocolate to coffins.
Ivanka Trump bags trademarks in China, and a whole bunch of ethics questions
It’s a victory for her in a country well known for its “trademark squatters” – people who profiteer from trademarking someone else’s names and brands – if her company ever decides to make and sell those things.
But the approvals have raised questions of conflicts of interest because her father, President Donald Trump, had been engaged in trade negotiations with the Chinese government when it granted his daughter the trademarks.
“When foreign governments do business with Ivanka Trump, they know that they are dealing with the favored daughter of the US president who also works in her father’s White House,” wrote ethics watchdogs Fred Wertheimer and Norman Eisen.
“Some countries will no doubt see this as a way to curry favor with President Trump. Other countries may see the business requests made by his daughter’s company as requests they cannot refuse.”
China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce had given Ivanka Trump’s trademarks a greenlight around the time her father vowed to save a Chinese firm crippled by US sanctions.
President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018
Before the latest scrutiny on the first daughter, President Trump himself was subjected to accusations of conflicts of interest after China granted his company, the Trump Organization, approval of dozens of trademarks of his name shortly after he took office.
The questions have stemmed in part from President Trump’s active family businesses, and his unusual move to bring his children in as official advisers.
Before taking a formal job as a presidential advisor at the White House, Ivanka Trump ran a clothing and jewelry business under her name. After her father took office, she stepped back from management of the brand to avoid conflicts of interest.
Foreign companies in China routinely apply for trademarks for goods and services to protect their brands, regardless of whether they sell those products.
In Trump’s case, the need to fend off “trademark squatters” in the country isn’t unfounded.
In February 2017, days after Trump was sworn into office, Chinese companies filed at least 65 applications to use “Ivanka” as a trademark for their products.