Many have voiced concerns over how President-elect Donald Trump will handle conflicts of interest between his business dealings and his role as president. While Trump is exempt from conflict of interest laws, he wants to leave no doubt in anybody’s mind about his complete commitment to the government’s business. Recently, he has appointed his sons and a long-time friend to run his company. Many wonder what that means to Trump’s Organization in Southeast Asia.
What Will a Trump Presidency Mean to his Organization in Southeast Asia?
While President-elect Trump says he will pass the management to a committee formed to run the company, many wonder whether he would let his business dealings affect his judgement as president.
For example, many have criticized Trump for not taking a stronger role against Philippine’s President Rodrigo R. Duterte. Human rights advocates say that his bloody anti-drug campaign killed over 6,000 people since he came to power. Trump has received over $5 million to put his name on a $150 million project in Manila.
Analyst Robert Manning from the Washington D.C.-based think tank Atlantic Council and former employee of the National Intelligence Council which are the publishers of the prestigious Global Report said:
“Whether his business interests are a factor in that, I don’t know how you ascertain that. I think it would certainly give [Trump] a motivation.”
In order to make matters even more complicated, Duterte has named Jose E. B. Antonio as his special envoy to Washington D.C. Antonio is a former close associate and business partner of Trump, who has been instrumental in the Manila resort project.
Philippines is not the only place that the President-elect may have difficulties separating his work as president from his personal business dealings despite taking a hands off approach. In Indonesia, the billionaire-turned-politician has recently completed two resort projects. One of the men that was instrumental during the project was Setya Novanto who served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Indonesia. While they were working together, Trump praised Novanto as a great man. Later, Indonesian officials forced Novanto to leave office on corruption charges.
Many see Trump’s creation of a special committee to run his business as an important first step, but they suggest that it does not address all the problems. First, the new Trump Organization committee will consist of two of the President-elect’s sons and a long-time associate. They have too promised to appoint an ethics person. Many suggest that the two men can easily talk to President Trump without anyone knowing.
Secondly, President-elect Trump already has information on his business dealings in Southeast Asia. This simple fact implies that he does not need anyone to tell him what he already knows. Some even go so far as to suggest that the President-elect’s business friendships may pose a threat to the United States’ security.
Trump has said that the money from any foreign official that chooses to stay in his Washington D.C. hotel will be donated to the U.S. government. Some suggest that this simply does not go far enough to separate the President-elect’s business empire from government issues. Interested parties are likely to see lawyers question Trump’s motives throughout his presidency.
For the first time in modern history, the President-elect of the United States is a businessman instead of a person from within the political system. This unique position raises many ethical problems as it can be seen in Southeast Asia. While Trump has created a trust to operate his businesses over the next 4 years, many say that this does not go far enough. Many questions will continue to be raised throughout his presidency.
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