President Donald Trump spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company, the New York Times has reported.
China is one of only three foreign nations – the others being Britain and Ireland – where Mr Trump maintains a bank account, according to analysis by the newspaper of the president’s tax records.
The foreign accounts do not show up on Mr Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names.
The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which the tax records show paid 188,561 US dollars (£145,629) in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.
JUST PUBLISHED: Latest from NYT Trump tax project - The president’s China connection. https://t.co/fArpbLiHxu— Matt Purdy (@mattbpurdy) October 21, 2020
In response to questions from the New York Times, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organisation, said the company had “opened an account with a Chinese bank having offices in the United States in order to pay the local taxes” associated with efforts to do business there.
He said the company had opened the account after establishing an office in China “to explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia”.
“No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialised and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive,” Mr Garten said. “Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose.”
Mr Garten would not identify the bank in China where the account is held.
China continues to be an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign, from the president’s trade war to his barbs over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.
His campaign has tried to portray former vice president Joe Biden as misreading the dangers posed by China’s growing power.
Mr Trump has also sought to tar his opponent with overblown or unsubstantiated assertions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings there while his father was in office.
As for the former vice president, his public financial disclosures, along with the income tax returns he voluntarily released, show no income or business dealings of his own in China.
192,000 US dollars Amount tax records show Donald Trump invested in five small companies created specifically to pursue projects in China
However, there is ample evidence of Mr Trump’s efforts to do business there.
As with Russia, where he explored hotel and tower projects in Moscow without success, Mr Trump has long sought a licensing deal in China. His efforts go at least as far back as 2006, when he filed trademark applications in Hong Kong and the mainland. Many Chinese government approvals came after he became president.
In 2008, Mr Trump pursued an office tower project in Guangzhou that never got off the ground.
But his efforts accelerated in 2012 with the opening of a Shanghai office, and tax records show that one of his China-related companies, THC China Development LLC, claimed 84,000 US dollars (£64,875) in deductions that year for travel costs, legal fees and office expenses.
The New York Times said Mr Trump’s tax records show that he has invested at least 192,000 US dollars (£148,285) in five small companies created specifically to pursue projects in China over the years.
Those companies claimed at least 97,400 (£75,224) in business expenses since 2010, including some minor payments for taxes and accounting fees as recently as 2018, the paper reported.