China approves Donald Trump-branded spas, escort services, hotels and massage parlours without US Congress permission

Preliminary approval has been granted for 38 trademarks which raises further questions about conflicts of interest

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The Independent US

Chinese authorities have granted preliminary approval for dozens of Trump-branded businesses, expanding his commercial empire and raising further conflicts of interest, say lawyers.

The 38 trademarks include new hotels, spas, escort and concierge services, massage parlors, personal security services and insurance, according to public documents.

The President’s lawyers applied for the trademarks in April last year, at the same time the then Presidential candidate Trump was accusing China of "ripping off" the US and deliberately manipulating its currency to its own advantage.

If there is no objection, the trademarks will be formally registered after 90 days.

Ethics lawyers argue that if the Trump trademarks receive any special treatment due to their association with the President, it would violate the US Constitution, which prohibits those in public office from accepting anything of value from foreign governments, unless they are approved by Congress.

Congress has not approved the China trademarks.

Norm Eisen, who served as chief ethics lawyer for former President Barack Obama, told The Independent that the initial registration of a long-denied Trump trademark "certainly seems to run afoul of the foreign emoluments clause" of the US Constitution.

"I anticipate that these issues will enter into our litigation," he said.

"When Trump is profiting from these valuable Chinese benefits [...], how can we be sure he will advance US interests in his engagements with that country, for example by staunching the flow of American jobs out from the US to China?"

Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer for George W Bush, said a trademark in itself was not likely to be a violation of the constitutional emoluments clause, but he questioned why so many were granted over such a short period, and whether there was "an accommodation in at least some of them."

They have already filed a lawsuit to challenge the President’s alleged conflicts of interest.

China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which oversees the Trademark Office, and Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Independent.

Spring Chang, a founding partner at Chang Tsi & Partners, a Beijing law firm that has represented the Trump Organization, declined to comment specifically on Trump's trademarks. But she did say that she advises clients to take out marks defensively, even in categories or subcategories of goods and services they may not aim to develop.

"I don't see any special treatment to the cases of my clients so far," she added. "I think they're very fair and the examination standard is very equal for every applicant."

The Trump Organisation is being run by Mr Trump’s two oldest sons, Donald Jr and Eric Trump, whilst he is in the White House. He was urged to divest from his businesses and place assets in a blind trust but has not done so. The trust, of which he is the sole beneficiary, is being run by Donald Jr and longtime associate Allen Weisselberg. The President can revoke the trust at any time and stands to benefit financially from it after his term is over.

His sons have continued to expand the Trump brand since Inauguration; in Canada and Dubai. Taxpayers have reportedly spent millions on security costs for the sons on their business trips around the world.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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