Trump on Indian trade trip, but it's not Donald

Business, diplomacy overlap as Trump Jr sells 'US President's brand' of housing

The eldest son of the US president arrived in India to help promote the Trump Organization's condominium developments.

GURUGRAM • When the Trump family jet lands in India this week, the family member taking a tour of the world's largest democracy - with a Secret Service detail in tow - will not be the US president on a diplomatic mission.

It will be his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, on a sales trip. But Indians might be forgiven for not making much of the distinction.

The visit by the younger Trump, intended to help sell more than US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in luxury residential units being built by the Trumps and their local partners, has been promoted with newspaper advertisements that read: "Trump has arrived. Have you?"

The younger Trump's week-long visit comes as President Donald Trump is working to strengthen ties between the two countries.

The President, who enjoys widespread popularity in India, was greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a bear hug in Washington last June, and the two leaders have frequently discussed greater military cooperation and ramping up trade.

Mr Trump has also taken a harder line towards Pakistan and China, two of India's rivals.

The overlap in India between father and son creates a spectacle with few parallels in business and diplomacy.

  • US$3m What the Trump family earned in royalties in 2016 from ventures in India.

The younger Trump is scheduled to arrive today on a Boeing 757 nicknamed Trump Force One, because the President crisscrossed the United States on the plane during the campaign.

The Trump family earned as much as US$3 million in royalties in 2016 from ventures in India. And Ms Ivanka Trump made her own trip to India last November, in her capacity as a member of the Trump administration, just as sales were about to start on some of the residential projects.

"The idea that the President's son would be going and shilling the President's brand at the same time Donald Trump is President and is managing strategic and foreign relations with India - that is just bizarre," said Mr Daniel Markey, who helped coordinate South Asia policy at the State Department during the George W. Bush administration.

There are no formal federal rules that prohibit Mr Trump Jr from pursuing his business interests; he is a private citizen.

And even though his father is still a beneficial owner of the family business, he is not subject to conflict of interest laws, as the President is exempt.

India is the Trump Organisation's biggest international market, with four real estate projects under way.

The largest is here in Gurgaon, now known officially as Gurugram, a fast-growing city outside New Delhi with a skyline filled with skyscrapers.

The Trump development encompasses two towers with 254 "ultra luxury" units, each selling for as much as US$1.5 million.

Mr Rajiv Bansal, who is helping to sell the units, said: "It's a status symbol. This is a big brand, the President of the United States' name will be on it."

The other Trump property projects are in Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2018, with the headline 'Trump on Indian trade trip, but it's not Donald'. Subscribe