The list of business dealings that could impact a Trump presidency is growing, fast.
Over the weekend, the New York Times detailed real-estate developments — from India to the United Arab Emirates — that are raising concern’s about how the president elect’s business interests will impact foreign policy.
One of these conflicts involves a country he’s bashed constantly throughout the election: China.
The Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), China’s massive state-owned bank and the world’s biggest lender, currently rents space in Trump Tower, and Bloomberg reports that its lease with the Trump organization will come up for negotiation during Trump’s term in the White House.
The bank’s lease is slated to end in October 2019, adding its renewal to the list of potential conflicts of interest for president-elect Trump, who has vowed to slap steep tariffs on Chinese imports and declare China a currency manipulator. The lease is no small matter for the Trump Organization. ICBC was Trump Tower’s largest office tenant as of 2012, occupying 11 percent of its office space, according to mortgage documents filed by Wells Fargo & Co. that year.
Ethicists interviewed by Bloomberg say that if the ICBC’s rate that deviates from the market rate — something that would have to be determined by an independent auditor — it could raise some eyebrows. Some go as far as to say that the President shouldn’t be receiving payment from the ICBC at all.
That’s because while the President is exempt from conflict of interest rules, the US Constitution does have an emolument clause that prohibits government officials from receiving gifts from foreign governments.
Now, it’s important to point out that the ICBC has been paying a comparatively high rate to be in Trump Tower since 2012 — $95.48 per square foot. That’s more than any other tenant in the building. Given the fact that the Tower is now surrounded by barricades and that the businesses inside are already suffering, it’s hard to see how the ICBC would want to continue paying that rate.
Unless, of course, they’re getting something else in return.
For more on Trump’s interesting relationship with the world’s second largest economy, listen to BI’s Linette Lopez and Josh Barro discuss China, Trump and trade on their podcast, Hard Pass.