NEW YORK: US first daughter and presidential advisor Ivanka Trump is facing ethics questions after she was granted Chinese trademark approvals for her brands in the midst of a trade war her father is leading against Beijing.
Ivanka Trump Marks LLC received preliminary approval for 16 new trademarks in October, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which on Monday released documents about the issue and said the approvals raised questions.
Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both serve as advisors to President Donald Trump, and it is not the first time concerns over the potential conflict of interest with her business have been raised.
Trump also has faced criticism for failing to divest fully from his business.
"Since she has retained her foreign trademarks, the public will continue to have to ask whether President Trump has made foreign policy decisions in the interest of his and his family's businesses," said Caroline Zhang, social media manager for the non-profit group. Zhang said.
The trademarks cover such goods as handbags, umbrellas, shower caps and swimsuits, according to the documents.
The trademarks were filed in 2016 prior to Trump's election win and "well before" Ivanka Trump joined the administration, said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Abbe Lowell, Ivanka Trump's ethics attorney.
"These trademarks were sought to broadly protect Ms. Trump's name, and to prevent others from stealing her name and using it to sell their products," he said, calling it "a common trademark practice."
However, the time of Beijing's decision to grant the trademarks raise questions: Trump has imposed steep punitive tariffs on more than US$250 billion in Chinese imports, and the rates are set to rise Jan 1.
President Trump has adopted a Jekyll and Hyde approach to trade relations with Beijing, at times harshly criticizing China for taking advantage of the US and at others speaking warmly of his friendly relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Ethics watchdogs have repeatedly criticised Trump over his continued connections to his personal business interests.
Just last week, a US judge in Maryland rejected an attempt by Trump to halt discovery in a case over whether Trump's interest in the Trump International Hotels Washington hotel violates the US Constitution emoluments clause, which restricts payments to officials from foreign or state governments.