January 22, 2020
The Trump family may claim they’re involved in no new foreign deals for the president’s business while he’s in office, but they recently obtained new foreign trademarks apparently related to their bread and butter—real estate development—in a country where they have a long-languishing development.
Last month, CREW discovered applications for Trump’s first trademarks in Argentina since he took office, which lined up suspiciously with the Trump administration’s lifting and placing of tariffs on the country. Further investigation shows the trademarks granted to Trump late last year were for the word “Trump” in two classes of services, one of which includes real estate affairs, while the other includes building construction. In the months before the two trademarks were granted, Ivanka Trump visited Argentina with $400 million in aid to benefit infrastructure.
Plans for a Trump Tower in Argentina predate Trump’s presidency, however we’ve never seen any actual forward progress.
After Trump’s election in 2016 an Argentinian journalist made an unsubstantiated claim that Trump used a phone call with then-President Mauricio Macri to “lobby” for a new Trump development in the country. While this was vehemently denied by both president’s camps, Trump does have a history of doing business with Macri’s family. In his book The Art of the Deal, Trump claimed that he “did the Macri family a big favor” by helping Macri’s father out with a real estate venture in New York.
Just two days following Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election, a business associate of YY Development, the firm charged with building the Trump-branded Argentina and Punta Del Este projects reportedly organized a call between Eric Trump and Argentina’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs. Just days after Trump and Macri’s call, YY Development Group announced that construction could begin on the Argentina project in the summer of 2017, although it apparently has yet to begin.
While the Trump brand has spread across the world, the Trump Organization hasn’t had much luck breaking into the Latin American market, where it’s struggled for years to get projects off the ground. The most notable of these developments is its Punta del Este, Uruguay resort, where one key player recently served as Argentina’s economics minister. According to those involved, the project is years behind schedule in development.
While many of the projects have struggled, they have led to relationships with political leaders. In 2011, Trump and Panama’s president celebrated the opening of the Trump Panama City resort. The next year, Donald Trump Jr. met with the president of Colombia, who encouraged him to invest in Columbian tourism. In 2012 Trump Jr. also traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to announce the development of Trump-branded towers there. On this trip he met the city’s mayor. This project, however, was implicated in a 2016 criminal investigation into state industries disproportionately benefitting the Trump Organization.
We don’t know if or when a Trump Tower in Argentina could actually be built. But it’s clear that the business the president still owns and profits from has continued to be active in foreign countries. And that should be enough to make anyone question any foreign policy decisions the Trump administration makes in Argentina.