In the wake of electing Donald Trump as president, officials are realizing just how complicated the new prez’s business ventures could make America’s foreign relations over the next four years. As our first businessman president, Trump already has connections abroad– connections that could seriously complicate U.S. foreign relations when he takes office in January.
One such connection is that with Jose E. B. Antonio, a Philippine developer who he recently partnered with to build a $150 million tower in Manila. In addition to this, Trump has business in the works within the Philippines, in the form of a series of Trump branded resorts. Many are beginning to worry that Trump’s business endeavors could “compromise American efforts to criticize the corrupt intermingling of state power with vast business enterprises controlled by the political elite” (NY Times) and wonder if our reactions to world events will be influenced by the Trump family’s financial ties abroad. Trump is reported to have business in at least 20 countries, many of which are part of the developing world, such as India, Indonesia, and Uruguay. What makes many skeptical is the fact that Trump has refused to release his tax returns or a list of his lenders, meaning that no one knows the true extent of his “global financial entanglements” (NY Times).
According to Mr. Trump, the business is being passed over to his kids, who will run it on their own. Despite this, it is undeniable that the Trump enterprise will acquire an influence like never before, making foreign officials feel compelled to help the family in order to gain advantages. If foreign governments think doing business with the Trump family will put them on America’s “good side,” U.S. foreign policy could become seriously complicated. Another issue that could arise is the use of these Trump Towers as targets of terrorism in the Middle East where they are often seen as symbols of American capitalism (and now, symbols of the president, himself).
Many have noticed little division between Trump’s business interests and his transition into the presidency, with Trump reaching out to politicians regarding projects such as golf courses in Scotland, and Ivanka Trump beginning conversations of expanding the Trump brand with world leaders in Turkey, Argentina, and Japan.
As president, Trump is exempt from many conflict-of-interest laws, but the emoluments clause in the Constitution prevents him from “taking payments or gifts from a foreign government entity,” (NY Times) which some say he will violate by renting space in the New York Trump Tower to the Bank of China or hosting diplomats in his hotels.
It will be interesting to see how these two worlds will collide when Trump assumes the presidency. I guess only time will tell if he will be able to separate his business and his presidency.