Ivanka Trump, leader of her namesake retail brand and adviser to her father, President Donald Trump, won provisional approval of three new trademarks from the Chinese government on April 6th—the same day she and her husband Jared Kushner dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife at Mar-a-Lago. The trademarks provide her monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy.
In an effort to separate business and politics, Ivanka Trump distanced herself from her retail brand after her father won the presidential election in November 2016, but news of the Chinese trademarks corresponding with the President’s hosted dinner shows just how difficult such a feat proves to be for the first daughter.
In fact, sales of her products have continued to surge following her father’s inauguration. The brand also saw a significant rise in sales after White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s urged consumers to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”
While it is not illegal to use the status of being in government to build a brand, criminal conflict of interest law prohibits federal officials, like the first daughter and her husband, from participating in government matters that could impact their own (or their spouse’s) financial interest. “The commercial currents of the Trump White House are unprecedented in modern American politics, ethics lawyers say. They have created an unfamiliar landscape riven with ethical pitfalls, and forced consumers and retailers to wrestle with the unlikely passions now inspired by Ivanka Trump’s mid-market collection of ruffled blouses, shifts and wedges,” explains Cosmopolitan.com.
To address the ethical concerns, Trump has shifted the brand’s assets to a family-run trust valued at more than $50 million and pledged to recuse herself from issues that present conflicts.”Ivanka will not weigh in on business strategy, marketing issues, or the commercial terms of agreements,” her attorney, Jamie Gorelick, said in a statement. “She has retained authority to direct the trustees to terminate agreements that she determines create a conflict of interest or the appearance of one.”
Trump and her husband’s relationship with China, however, remains a concern. “Ivanka has so many China ties and conflicts, yet she and Jared appear deeply involved in China contacts and policy. I would never have allowed it,” Norman Eisen, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under Barack Obama, tells Cosmopolitan. “For their own sake, and the country’s, Ivanka and Jared should consider stepping away from China matters.”