The steel and aluminum industries in China will soon be slapped with tariffs up to $50 billion by President Donald Trump. On Thursday, after China announced their intentions to retaliate against the United States with $50 billion in tariffs of their own against U.S. goods, Trump warned that his administration would respond with another set of tariffs, this time targeting $100 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Exempt from the proposed tariffs against China, however, is the clothing manufacturing industry.
U.S. officials say they used an algorithm to determine which goods to exclude from new tariffs. According to the Washington Post, the list was drafted to achieve “the lowest consumer impact,” ensuring goods like clothing and toys were excluded so as not to raise the cost on domestic consumer goods.
Exempting clothing from the tariffs provides a big break to American clothing companies that hold trademarks in China. One of those clothing companies belongs to the First Daughter of the United States, Ivanka Trump.
A recent report by the Huffington Post found that the president’s daughter and closest adviser rakes in a total of $1.5 million a year from the Trump Organization while still working at the White House.
Her dual role as adviser to the president and private business executive has continuously raised ethical red flags. No one can be entirely sure that public policy by this administration isn’t being driven by business motives, or whether countries may pursue business deals with the Trump family as a means to curry political favor with the administration.
The clearest example of this ethical line-blurring comes from early in the Trump presidency, when Ivanka dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Trump family’s resort in West Palm Beach on the same day China approved three new trademarks for Ivanka’s company.
Ivanka has, on multiple occasions, ducked behind her White House job to avoid legal responsibilities associated with her brand.
The First Daughter was hit with a copyright lawsuit from another fashion label last year, alleging Ivanka stole the design for one of her Ivanka Trump-branded shoes. A Trump Organization lawyer argued that Ivanka’s position as a “high ranking government official” should excuse her from having to submit a deposition.
Ivanka also used her position in the White House to avoid having to comment on labor violations at one Trump-linked factory in China that manufactures her line. Over the summer, three Chinese activists were arrested for attempting to expose the labor conditions the factory. The group for which the activists worked, China Labor Watch, issued a report on the factory and alleged that the employees were forced to work 12-hour days, at least six days a week, at a monthly salary of about 2,500 yuan, or $365. The workers had been given no safety training, even though many came into contact with dangerous hot oils and glues regularly.
Similarly, in Bangladesh, where many of the Ivanka Trump-branded denim is manufactured, garment workers earn a minimum wage of about $70 a month, according to the Washington Post.
Ivanka’s attorney, Jamie Gorelick, argued that because of her role in the White House she “has been advised that she cannot ask the government to act in an issue involving the brand in any way, constraining her ability to intervene personally.”
All the while Ivanka has worn pieces of her own line in public to help promote her personal brand of #WomenWhoWork, and has championed herself as an advocate for working women across the globe.
Both Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner have been repeatedly advised by government watchdog groups to either divest their assets, establish an honest blind trust, or recuse themselves from their government work. So far, they have done neither.
President Donald Trump himself owns a number of trademarks in China through the Trump Organization and also faces a wide range of conflicts of interest stemming from the business. Trump has at least 123 registered and provisionally approved trademarks in China. The Trump Organization says that the Chinese trademarks under his name have been transferred to DTTM Operations — a holding company — and that they “have nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Trump,” according to a Trump Organization lawyer.
As revealed by ProPublica, lawyers for Trump confirmed that the president can pull funds from his blind trust — managed by his two adult sons, who have been entrusted with the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization — whenever he chooses, without disclosing it to the public.