Speed Reads

Things that make you go hmmmm

China approved a bevy of Ivanka Trump trademarks as President Tump agreed to bail out China's ZTE. It's probably a coincidence.

On Sunday, China gave final approval to a 13th trademark in three months for White House official and first daughter Ivanka Trump's lifestyle brand, including seven trademarks awarded in May alone. "Taken together," The Associated Press reports, "the trademarks could allow her brand to market a lifetime's worth of products in China, from baby blankets to coffins, and a host of things in between." They also raise thorny conflict-of-interest questions.

For example, China approved five of Ivanka Trump's long-sought, potentially lucrative trademarks six days before President Trump announced his surprise decision to work with Chinese President Xi Jinping to rescue Chinese telecom ZTE, which was fined $1.2 billion by the Commerce Department and barred from using U.S. parts for violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran and North Korea. (The military, U.S. intelligence community, and a bipartisan majority in Congress also say ZTE poses a national security threat because its phones could be used for spying.) On May 21, China awarded Ivanka Trump two more trademarks, and four days later, Trump announced he had made a deal to keep ZTE open and allow it to buy U.S. parts again.

"Coincidence?" asks Sui-Lee Wee at The New York Times. "Well, probably." Trump's company — which she has taken a break from leading but still profits from — said there was nothing improper in seeking to protect the brand in China, and experts said China approved the trademarks in roughly a normal period of time. Interestingly, AP notes, "Ivanka Trump does not have a large retail presence in China, but customs records show that the bulk of her company's U.S. imports are shipped from China." Still, with the constant confluence of family business and U.S. policy in Trump's presidency it's hard to tell if countries see rewarding his daughter's company "as a way to curry favor" or "requests they cannot refuse," say Democracy 21's Fred Wertheimer and CREW's Norman Eisen.