Chinese Construction Company Inks Deal To Build Trump Golf Course In Dubai

Sep 14, 2017
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President Trump has said that he would not engage in foreign business deals while he's in the White House. Well, a Chinese state-owned construction company has been awarded a $32 million contract to work on a Trump golf course development in Dubai. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: President Trump has two golf courses in Dubai bearing his name. The first, an 18-hole course, was opened in February by his sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. The second, designed by golfing great Tiger Woods, is due to open in late 2018. Both are set inside massive luxury housing developments.

ALAN SHIPNUCK: The scale of these developments is incredible.

NORTHAM: Alan Shipnuck is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

SHIPNUCK: I mean, you're talking about a whole city built around this golf course, you know, 10,000 homes at each one.

NORTHAM: A construction company owned by the Chinese government will build the roads in the residential area. Critics are crying foul, saying Trump is reneging on his pledge not to do any foreign deals while he's president. But the thing is Trump doesn't own the development. Shipnuck says like most of his other 18 golf courses around the world, Trump only licenses out his name, his brand, for a fee to a developer. And that's who awarded the contract to the Chinese construction company.

SHIPNUCK: The developer is handling all the infrastructure and all the homes. Trump puts his name on the golf course and then his people manage it going forward.

NORTHAM: Trump's partner in the Dubai golf course development is Damac Properties. Its owner is Hussain Sajwani, a billionaire from the United Arab Emirates. His nickname is the Donald of Dubai. Besides the Chinese deal, Damac is also awarding contracts to companies from several Gulf and European countries.

LARRY NOBLE: President Trump's name is on this golf course in a development where there is a lot of foreign involvement.

NORTHAM: Larry Noble is general counsel with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. He says there are concerns Trump's deals could impact decisions over foreign policy, security and trade.

NOBLE: So it's an inherent conflict of interest. It's an inherent problem for the president to have that much of a financial stake in what foreign-owned companies are doing, companies that are owned by foreign governments are doing regardless of the fine details of it. You know, the bottom line here is if that development does well, he does well.

NORTHAM: Noble says the only way for Trump to prevent this conflict of interest is to fully divest from his business interests. So far the president has shown no signs of doing that. A request for comment from The Trump Organization was not returned. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.