By Itunuoluwa Adebo China on Thursday defended its handling of 38 trademarks it recently approved provisionally for President Trump, saying it followed the law in processing the applications at a pace that some experts view as unusually quick.
Democrats in Congress were critical of Trump after the Associated Press reported Wednesday that the potentially valuable trademarks had been granted, raising questions of conflict of interest and political favoritism. One senator said the issue “merits investigation.”
Trump has sometimes struggled to win trademarks from China; he secured one recently after a 10-year fight that turned his way only after he declared his candidacy for the presidency
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a regular briefing with reporters that Chinese authorities handle all trademark applications “in accordance with the law and regulation.” He declined to comment on speculation about political influence on Trump’s trademark approvals.
Critics fear foreign governments might gain leverage from Trump’s global portfolio of brands.
Democrats in Congress have been pushing Trump to sever financial ties with his global businesses to avoid potential violations of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars federal officials from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless approved by Congress.
The monopoly right to a successful brand in a market like China can be worth huge sums. Former top ethics lawyers from the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush say any special treatment from Beijing in awarding Trump intellectual property protection would violate the Constitution.
Concerns about political influence are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy are designed to reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party, and foreign companies and the lawyers that work for them regularly ask embassy staff for help lobbying Chinese officials.
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