China has granted preliminary approval for 16 trademarks for fashion accessories and other items to White House adviser and presidential daughter Ivanka Trump, even though she announced earlier this year she's shutting her business down.
The approvals, which were applied for in March and May 2016, underscore the ongoing entanglement of President Donald Trump and his family with the Chinese government through the Trumps' various business interests in the country, past and present.
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Chinese government records show that the trademark applications received preliminary approvals last month. Such decisions usually become final after a three-month public comment period.
Most applications were related to fashion items such as shoes and handbags, but one was for an unspecified item in a category that covers voting machines, as well as gadgets and electronics ranging from cameras and telephones to semiconductors.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the trademark approvals, which were first reported by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit group that has previously sued the President over his business interests.
In China, where shoes carrying Ivanka Trump's brand were once made, she had previously scored batches of trademarks on a wide array of products, including in late May — when her father's administration was engaged in intense trade negotiations with Beijing.
At the time, Ivanka Trump's business representative said the fashion line regularly filed such applications, especially in areas where trademark infringement was rampant.
"We have recently seen a surge in trademark filings by unrelated third parties trying to capitalize on the name and it is our responsibility to diligently protect our trademark," said Abigail Klem, who was then the president of the Ivanka Trump brand.
Escalating trade war
The US-China trade talks ultimately failed, and the Trump administration subsequently slapped steep tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports.
China has retaliated by imposing tariffs on $110 billion of American products. Tensions have also been growing in other areas between Washington and Beijing, from the military to intelligence and diplomacy.
Speaking at a United Nations meeting in September, President Trump claimed, without offering evidence, that China was trying to interfere with the US midterm elections.
"They do not want me, or us, to win, because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade, and we are winning on trade," he said. "We don't want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming election."
The Trump Organization, the family company that is now run by the President's sons, has also had a slew of trademarks approved by Beijing, many of them after his election victory in 2016.
Ethics experts have said Beijing could be seeking to influence the President by awarding him and his family the trademarks, but the Chinese government has dismissed those assertions, emphasizing that authorities follow the law in reviewing all applications.
President Trump is being sued by the governments of Washington DC and Maryland on claims that his continued interest in the Trump International Hotel, which has become a gathering place for foreign governments with business before the administration, puts him in violation of a constitutional clause banning presidents from accepting gifts from foreign governments.
A federal judge last week allowed discovery to proceed in that case, meaning Trump will have to turn over business records associated with the hotel.