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VOL. 42 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 23, 2018

Trump Jr.'s foreign policy speech in India boosts concerns

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NEW DELHI (AP) — As criticism mounted that the American president's eldest son was pushing an ethics boundary by making a foreign policy speech at an Indian business summit, conference organizers hurriedly changed the speech's title.

Donald Trump Jr. was slated to speak Friday evening on "Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The Era of Cooperation."

But a few hours before he was set to speak, the agenda for the Global Business Summit had changed, announcing instead "A Fireside Chat with Donald Trump Jr. "

With summer already approaching, it's already far too warm to be lighting cozy fires in New Delhi.

The summit, where Trump Jr. is sharing space with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is part of his whirlwind trip promoting Trump-brand luxury real estate.

Critics had said that Trump Jr. airing his views on international relations, especially while sharing a platform with senior Indian government officials, was problematic because of the implication that he has his father's ear.

"I am concerned that Mr. Trump's speech will send the mistaken message that he is speaking on behalf of the president, the administration or the United States government, not as a private individual, or that he is communicating official American policy," Sen. Robert Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a letter earlier this week to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

Menendez said he expects that the U.S. State Department and the embassy will treat Trump Jr. like any other American on private business and "will take every effort to avoid any perception of special treatment or a conflict of interest."

On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Lindsay E. Walters said the Trump administration "takes seriously its obligation to ensure that government resources are not used to provide a private benefit to anyone."

"Donald Trump Jr. is a private individual and neither the State Department nor the White House has provided any support for this trip beyond coordinating with his Secret Service protection," Walters said.

Trump Jr.'s India visit has already raised ethical concerns.

President Trump has pledged to stay away from any new foreign business deals during his term in office to avoid potential ethical conflicts. While the projects that Trump Jr. is promoting in India were inked before his father was elected, ethics experts have long seen the use of the Trump name to promote even existing business ventures as tricky territory.

Trump Jr. and his brother Eric have been running the Trump Organization, the family's real estate business, during their father's presidency.

Since Tuesday, Trump Jr. has been traveling to four Indian cities to meet business partners and buyers in the luxury residential projects that bear his family's name.

With five ventures under the Trump brand, India has the company's largest number of projects outside the United States. The Trump Organization charges a licensing fee to its Indian partners who build the properties under the Trump name. A luxury complex is already open in the central city of Pune while the others are in varying stages of construction in Mumbai and Kolkata and two in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon.

Trump Jr. has dismissed claims that his family business is benefiting from his father's presidency.

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