In yet another instance of potential impropriety by President Donald Trump, the Agence France-Presse reports that a Trump Organization project in Indonesia is being partially funded by the Chinese government – a fact well known to Trump prior to the 2016 presidential election.
A subsidiary of Chinese state-owned construction firm Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) signed a deal with Indonesia’s MNC Land to build a theme park outside Jakarta as part of the ambitious project, the company said on Thursday.
The park – expected to be backed with up to US$500 million in Chinese government loans – is part of an “integrated lifestyle resort”, known as MNC Lido City.
Included in the project are Trump-branded hotels, residences and a golf course, AFP reports, making MNC Lido City the first project to connect Trump’s business interests with the Chinese government’s massive infrastructure initiative.
While the Chinese companies will not be directly involved in the construction or financing of the Trump properties, the theme park is a critical part of the 3,000-hectare development.
Furthermore, Chinese companies are expected to put up US$500 million – half of the development’s projected budget – putting its success or failure in the hands of decision-makers in Beijing.
According to corporate filings and internal documents reviewed by AFP, the Trump Organization and the president’s sons – Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump – have been directly involved in numerous stages of project planning.
Marketing materials for the resort also point to both the theme park and Trump properties as flagship components of the development.
AFP notes that the project began prior to Trump’s ascension to the White House and well in advance of his pledge that the Trump Organization would avoid new business dealings with foreign governments.
But this is unlikely to pacify critics:
“[E]ven if this deal is completely and entirely above board, it simply furthers the perception of impropriety” surrounding Trump’s business dealings, said Christopher Balding, an economics professor at Shenzhen’s HSBC Business School. “Especially with the potential trade war, this is not a good look … Critics will be entirely right to demand answers.”
Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush, indicated the project could constitute a violation of the emoluments clause if the Chinese government’s financial involvement generates profit for the Trump Organization.
“I would have advised him to sell the hotel and other similar holdings,” Painter said.
MNC’s billionaire head Hary Tanoesoedibjo flew to New York and Washington in January 2017 for “a design review with Trump”, according to AFP; he also attended Trump’s inauguration.
Photos posted on Hary’s Instagram account show him in meetings at Trump Tower with Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Jnr, and posing with Trump himself.