*This post of mine is published on CNN.*
As the President got ready to sell his latest executive order to the American public, an overhaul of the H-1B skilled worker visa program, under his “Buy American, Hire American” slogan, Ivanka Trump appeared to be busy protecting the real emerald of the Trump family’s vast business empire: China.
On April 6, hours before she and her husband dined with the Chinese President and his family, Ivanka’s company secured provisional approval for three new trademarks to sell her brand’s jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy.
Though there is no direct evidence linking her trademark approval to the dinner or any other meeting with the Chinese government, the story does draw attention to the fine line the Trump White House is walking when it comes to maintaining its family businesses.
All the Trump family knows is how to make and close business deals. However, now that they are in politics — representing America on the world’s stage — they cannot use the White House to make money for the Trump family brand. And they certainly should avoid any appearance of impropriety.
The trademarks are just the latest in a string of international trademarks the Trump family has secured since Donald Trump won the presidency. And despite all the boycotting efforts and attempts to curtail the sale of Ivanka’s brand, business is booming.
The brand, which is still owned by Ivanka, who now also holds an official White House role, not only hit record sales this year but saw its US imports, most of which came from China, increase 166% in 2016.
According to China’s Trademark Office, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC has 16 registered trademarks in China and 32 pending applications ranging from cosmetics to leather handbags to clothes to spa and beauty services.
Although not all the applications were filed after Trump won the White House, some were, including five filed last December after Trump’s electoral victory and another four earlier this year after Trump’s inauguration.
Ivanka’s company said she did not sign off on the new trademark applications, adding that the trademarks are not “not necessarily an indication that the brand is planning to launch a category or a store in a specific territory.”
However, all this creates the appearance that Ivanka is still intent on maintaining her business portfolio and potentially even pursuing lucrative business deals under the shadow of her father’s White House.
We have to remember that despite divesting some of her assets and selling $36.7 million in assets to comply with ethics rules, Ivanka still owns her clothing and jewelry brand. And like her father, Ivanka retains her ownership role in her massive global business empire.
Her lawyer, Jamie Gorelick noted that Ivanka resigned from running the business and put it in trust, adding, “Ivanka has had no involvement with trademark applications submitted by the business.”
Unlike her father, Ivanka is subject to federal rules that prevent her from participating in matters in which she has a financial interest now that she works in the White House in an official capacity.
Despite ethics experts raising red flags for months over conflicts of interest between the Trump presidency, his businesses and his family, the unprecedented and unfamiliar nature of Trump’s political landscape is proving to be too convenient for the Trumps, especially Ivanka.
Now that she is serving in the White House in an unprecedented position, Ivanka is benefiting from loose or nonexistent accountability mechanisms.
After all, who wouldn’t want to do business with the President of the United States’ daughter, especially one who holds an office in the West Wing, and all the perks that come with that position?
And her clothing line isn’t even the only asset of Ivanka’s that we need to worry about. There is also her father’s Trump International Hotel down the street from the White House, in which Ivanka is a multimillion dollar stakeholder, despite ethics experts urging her to stay away from the hotel while holding a government job.
Will Ivanka Trump be an advocate for women’s rights, climate change or paid family leave? Or is she making it appear she is more interested in pursuing potential business opportunities?
From what we’ve seen so far, it pays to be the President’s daughter.
*This post of mine is published on CNN.*