As the Trump administration initiates a possible trade war with China, the president’s businesses continue to benefit from partnerships involving the Chinese government, via state-backed companies and investors.
Chinese government-backed firms are slated to work on parts of two large developments — in Dubai and Indonesia — that will include Trump-branded properties.
The Trumps are the landlord to one of China’s top state-owned banks, which has occupied the 20th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan since 2008. The bank’s lease is worth close to $2 million annually, according to industry estimates and a bank filing.
And despite the Trump administration’s focus on American manufacturing, assembly-line workers in China still produce blouses, shoes and handbags for the clothing line created by Trump’s daughter Ivanka, a White House adviser.
The tariffs that were set to kick in at 12:01 a.m. Friday are not expected to affect the Trumps’ financial interests, but the family’s business presence in China is awkward as the two countries ratchet up their protectionism.
Trump’s business interest in China is long-standing. He began applying for trademarks there in 2005, and in 2012, the Trump Hotel Collection opened an office in Shanghai, its first in Asia.
Yet in his political career, Trump has repeatedly boasted about his ability to best the Chinese in negotiations, starting with the 2015 speech that launched his presidential bid.
“When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time. All the time,” he said.
Trump did not mention that less than three months before, his company considered another deal with a state-backed entity in China that has not been previously reported.
According to correspondence and financial documents obtained by The Washington Post, the Trump Organization negotiated with a U.S. subsidiary of Shanghai Municipal Investment Group, one of China’s largest state-owned enterprises, to build a luxury project in Manhattan. The proposed deal fell apart when Trump’s company sought an ownership stake in the project without investing any capital.
The proposed deal was handled by Jason Greenblatt, then a Trump Organization attorney and now a White House adviser and special representative on international negotiations. The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
“We are excited to potentially be working with you,” Greenblatt wrote to the Shanghai group, after weeks of discussions in the spring of 2015.