CHINA awarded Ivanka Trump five new trademarks this month across a broad collection of businesses, just days before her father suddenly scrapped a US technology ban imposed on Chinese telecom firm ZTE, adding to questions about conflicts of interest at the White House.
According to government documents, the trademark approvals were dated May 7, a week before President Donald Trump extended an olive branch on ZTE in his trade tussle with China.
Chinese government documents revealing the trademarks were first publicised by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The US watchdog said the approvals, and other Trump family business connections to China, “raised potential ethics issues.”
The group said the first daughter, who represents the US at diplomatic events, already held more than a dozen trademarks in China and multiple pending applications. Donald Trump holds more than 100 trademarks in China.
The applications had been submitted in March 2017 and give Ivanka’s company – Ivanka Trump Marks LLC – trademark rights on goods including bath mats, textiles and baby blankets, CREW said.
Despite being an adviser to her father, Ivanka Trump still profits from her various branded products, of which China is a major supplier.
Trump administration officials last month proposed a ban on sales of crucial American technology to ZTE, a giant Chinese telecom company that employs 80,000 people.
The ban was intended to be punishment for what US officials said were false statements by ZTE over actions it claimed to have taken regarding the illegal sale of goods to Iran and North Korea.
ZTE said the US move threatened it with collapse.
But Trump abruptly reversed course on May 13, announcing on Twitter that he had been working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help ZTE stay in business, partly to save Chinese jobs.
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
Trump’s accusations that Chinese trade practices were killing American jobs had been a staple of his campaign, and his reversal has left heads spinning in Washington.
Trump has moved this year to increase trade pressure on Beijing.
After announcing tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium in March, Trump raised the ante repeatedly in the following weeks. He threatened tariffs on as much as US$150 billion worth of Chinese imports, prompting tit-for-tat threats by Beijing.
Trump said last Friday he had reached a deal to keep ZTE running, rolling back some penalties in exchange for security guarantees – infuriating Democrats and some in his own party.
The US is preparing to send a trade delegation back to Beijing later this week to continue talks aimed at easing trade tensions.
Additional reporting by AFP.