Trump foreign policies could hurt, help
his business empire
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[November 22, 2016]
By Tom Bergin
LONDON (Reuters) - Any moves by Donald
Trump to ban Muslims from entering the United States or bring back
waterboarding to interrogate suspects could have repercussions for some
of his sprawling foreign business interests -- from his golf course in
Scotland to luxury resorts in Indonesia.
A review of press releases published on the Trump Organization website
shows that 15 of 25 new acquisitions or joint ventures announced over
the past five years were overseas. These include the purchase of golf
courses in Ireland and Scotland and deals to license his name to
developers and manufacturers in Dubai, Indonesia, India, Azerbaijan,
Brazil, Mexico and Panama.
The deals underscore the potential conflicts of interest Trump will face
after he is sworn in as president on Jan. 20 and his vulnerability to
criticism that he is open to foreign influence. Foreign governments
could potentially seek to exploit Trump's business interests to affect
his decision making, or to punish him through his pocket book for
decisions they object to.
Trump's transition team declined to comment for this story.
In the 16 months to May, Trump earned up to $23 million from licensing
his name to developers in emerging markets, according to a filing with
the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.
“The licensing deals are the best of all because there’s no risk,” Trump
told Reuters in an interview in June. “I have 121 deals right now, going
forward, right now, 121, all over the world, in China, in Indonesia,” he
(Trump's foreign business interests: http://tmsnrt.rs/2gakiTQ)
Trump has said he will hand control of his company to his children.
However, when he met with his Indian business partners last week it
prompted a chorus of criticism that the wall between Trump and his
company was still too porous.
The Trump Organization has said a business structure will be set up that
complies with "all applicable rules and regulations." Trump has yet to
commit to setting up a blind trust that would formally sever his ties
with his business.
"I'm very confident he's not breaking any laws," Kellyanne Conway, a
senior adviser to Trump, told reporters at Trump Tower in New York on
Trump could face a backlash against his business interests in Middle
Eastern and Asian markets if he follows through with his campaign
promise to ban Muslims from entering the United States, and continues to
be open to restoring waterboarding - a form of interrogation widely
viewed as torture - or creating a national registry for Muslims,
“If the Muslim registry is introduced, he will have serious issues
finding Muslim local partners,” said Professor Koen Pauwels, a marketing
specialist at Ozyegin University, Istanbul.
There would be a "backlash" if Trump substantially tightens visa
restrictions on Muslim visitors, Pauwels added.
In December 2015, Trump's anti-Muslim comments cost him business in the
Middle East when a major chain of department stores halted sales of his
glitzy "Trump Home" line of lamps, mirrors and jewelry boxes in the
Trump has long identified the Middle East as a major growth market, and
his company is working with Dubai-based real estate giant DAMAC
Properties to build two golf clubs - including one with a course
designed by Tiger Woods - and a gated island community outside the city.
His daughter Ivanka said last year the organization was in talks on
deals in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Trump has a licensing deal with a developer for a Trump-branded retail
complex in Istanbul. He also has signed deals in Indonesia, the world’s
most populous Muslim country, to put his name on a redeveloped luxury
golf resort in Java and a luxury cliff-top hotel and residential
development in Bali.
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Trump speaks at election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S.,
November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
And it is not just in the Middle East that Trump could face
repercussions for any foreign policy decisions.
Trump’s $1.5 billion billion-pound golf and residential project
north of Aberdeen in Scotland could also be affected, warned
councilor Isobel Davidson, who sits on the panel responsible for
approving planning applications for the project. If Trump proceeds
with any anti-Muslim proposal, it could make it harder for him to
advance his development, she said.
“Councilors are not supposed to take the character of the applicant
into consideration when we are making a planning decision but
sometimes it’s quite hard not to,” she said.
NET IMPACT POSITIVE
Analysts said they saw more potential upside for Trump's business
from his election than downside. Very simply, people would want to
be associated with the personal brand of the U.S. president.
“It will have a boost because he has become more famous that he was
before,” said Professor Chiranjib Sen, Azim Premji University in
One test case could be China, which the Trump Organization has
identified as a “top priority among high-potential emerging
markets,” according to a 2013 press release. On the campaign trail,
Trump threatened to label China a currency manipulator and impose
import tariffs on Chinese imports.
Suisheng Zhao, a China expert at the University of Denver, said if
Trump did impose tariffs and more robustly challenged China’s
interests in the South China Sea, Beijing could tell Chinese
businesses to abandon any talks or deals with the Trump
Trump-branded property could also present a target for bombings or
other kinds of attacks, said Professor Peter Neumann, of the
International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political
Violence at King's College London.
“From a terrorist’s perspective, it’s a very attractive target,” he
What Trump does not do could also affect his foreign business
Mehmet Ugur, Professor of Economics and Institutions, at the
University of Greenwich Business School, said that Trump's
businesses could benefit if he takes a softer line on countries
accused of human rights violations.
Countries such as Turkey, China and Indonesia would "be more than
happy to welcome Trump Organization," he said.
(Additional reporting by Charles Levinson in New York. Reporting by
Tom Bergin, editing by Ross Colvin and Stuart Grudgings)
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