A business conference in India has renamed an address by Donald Trump Jr. after criticism that the original title of the talk suggested he was speaking on foreign policy issues that should be left to diplomats and government officials.
The talk was initially titled “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation,” before it was rebranded as a “Fireside Chat.”
The conference, which Trump, Jr., executive vice president of the Trump Organization, attended Friday was organized by the prestigious The Economic Times newspaper in New Delhi and attended by the Indian business and political elite.
In speaking with an Indian journalist, the younger Trump steered clear of all policy issues and tried to rest criticism that has dogged his trip. “I am here as a businessman. I am not representing anyone. I have been coming to India for over a decade,” he said at one point.
Deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Asia program Michael Kugelman told VOA the “damage control” done by changing the speech to something innocuous” was a wise move, though given the backlash and outcry that had already ensued, that change may have come too late.”
In a letter sent to the American ambassador in India earlier this week, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, expressed concern that the speech could “send the mistaken message” that Trump Jr. is speaking on behalf of the U.S. government.
Trump Jr., who spoke about his experiences as the son of the U.S. president, told the audience that he rarely talked politics with his father any more. “We see him so little that when we are together, it’s really about being a family.” He accused American journalists of unfair criticism and praised the Indian media, saying they “are so mild and nice.”
Conflicts on interest
Controversy about Trump Jr.’s visit erupted before he landed in India on Monday after newspaper advertisements offered buyers properties licensed by the Trump Organization “dinner and conversation” with the president’s son, sparking concerns of ethics and conflict of interest.
The Trump Organization has licensed its name to five projects being built by local developers in India, the company’s largest market outside the United States. One luxury apartment complex is complete in Pune, while four others, are in varying stages of construction in Mumbai, Kolkata and Gurugram.
In Delhi and Kolkata, customers who paid the booking fee of $ 38,000 were invited to dine with Trump Jr.
Kugelman said there certainly is “something questionable about the president’s son inviting buyers of his father’s properties to meet with him.”
The head of one of the companies building the Trump Towers in India, Kalpesh Mehta, told reporters $15 million was put down by buyers on Monday. He said over $100 million worth of real estate has been sold in the towers coming up in Gurugram, near New Delhi.
Trump Jr. has dismissed claims that his family business is benefiting from his father’s presidency and told an Indian television channel that his family had gotten no credit for business it has lost because of self-imposed restrictions President Trump has applied to stay away from any new foreign business deals during his term in office.