(CN) — Scrutiny intensified on trade negotiations with China on Tuesday after the Communist-run government kicked off the week with an award of four trademarks to Ivanka Trump.
“We shouldn’t have to ask whether a senior White House official is being influenced by a foreign power, but here we are,” Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Tuesday in an email.
Though Ivanka Trump shuttered her fashion brand last year amid declining sales and questions of conflict of interest, experts warn that, once President Donald Trump leaves office, the family could still reap handsome profits by working to expand their global trademark rights during his administration.
Ivanka applied for the Chinese trademarks in 2016 and 2017, and online trademark office records show that she obtained approval on Jan. 6 for one covering brokerage, charitable fundraising and art valuation services.
The next four, which protect products like sunglasses, wedding dresses and child care centers, were approved Sunday. China will finalize the marks in 90 days if no objections arise.
Representatives for Ivanka Trump, who serves as an adviser in her father’s administration, maintain that the trademarks are needed to stop outsiders from capitalizing on the Trump name.
For skeptics, however, expanding intellectual property holdings for the Trump family could leave the White House beholden to China during trade negotiations.
“Are these trademarks being granted to try to influence the White House?” Libowitz said. “Surely she knows that she’s getting them and appears to plan to return to her namesake business after leaving the White House.”