New Philippine Trade Envoy to U.S. is the Man Building Trump Tower Manila

RedState has written on the unprecedented number of potential conflicts of interest that are inherent in Donald Trump’s presidency.  Conflicts of interest don’t automatically imply wrongdoing, but they do present the opportunity for corruption.

Even if Trump is given every benefit of the doubt and he meticulously avoids making decisions as president that directly benefit his business interests, problems will still present themselves. External players will use business relationships as an “in” with the new president. It is already happening with the Philippines.

Despite our longstanding alliance with the Philippines, their new President Rodrigo Duterte has not had a good relationship so far with the United States. Last month he even threatened to “break up” with America.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s vitriol against the United States took another caustic turn Tuesday, when he threatened to “break up” with the US and said President Barack Obama can “go to hell.”

Duterte’s latest remarks came just as the US and Philippines started joint military exercises — perhaps for the last time.

The war drills began Tuesday in Manila and will last until October 12. Last week, Duterte said this round of joint drills with the US would be the last.

“I serve notice to you now that this will be the last joint military exercise with US,” Duterte said.

Duterte must see something different in President-elect Trump. Perhaps it is a mutual respect for a fellow bomb thrower. One can’t help but see some similarities between the two men in terms of their loudly professed desire to upset the status quo. President Duterte has decided to send a new special trade envoy to the United States—Jose E.B. Antonio, the real estate developer who is building Trump Tower Manila.


The luxury condo project is only licensing the Trump brand, but Trump and family have put effort into  selling the new complex to the public.

The tower, in Manila’s Makati district, isn’t quite finished, but it will top out at 57 stories. Brokers online are asking around $750,000 for a one-bedroom apartment in a city where the average worker takes home less than $10 a day.

As with many of President-elect Trump’s business ventures, Trump doesn’t own the building. His involvement is limited to licensing the Trump brand.

“As a brand, we’re incredibly excited about this building. The architecture is exquisite, the interior design is flawless,” says Trump’s daughter Ivanka, whose jewelry is also for sale on the website.

“It’s really just a beautiful, iconic modern building, very tall, very chic, very sexy,” says Trump’s son Eric.

And Trump himself chimed in.

“It’s really great working with Century Properties and the Antonio family. True professionals, they really know what they’re doing. Trump Tower Manila is going to be something special,” Trump says in the video.

There is probably no way to predict the number of things that could end up looking shady in a situation like this. Donald Trump has business relationships around the globe and the new Philippine envoy certainly isn’t going to be the last foreign official who straddles the line between diplomacy and a business relationship with Trump. It is not a stretch to think that someone at some point will use such business relationships as a bargaining chip with the United States government and that makes it virtually inevitable that someone will construe whatever happens next as suspicious.

Federal employees are always required to avoid even “the appearance of impropriety.” The rules are more fluid for elected officials, but the same standard should apply. Opponents and critics are certainly going to apply it to Trump, so he ought to make an effort to put up real firewalls between his public and private work.

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