New Delhi/Washington: Donald Trump Jr said Wednesday any talk that his family is profiting from his father's presidency is "nonsense" as he embarked on a highly publicized visit to India to promote real estate deals that bear his family's name.
The eldest son of President Donald Trump is in India to meet the promoters and buyers of Trump brand luxury homes in the country, raising ethical concerns about using the name of the American president to promote business ventures internationally.
But Trump Jr told Indian television channel CNBC-TV18 that his family is instead missing out on business opportunities because his father pledged to conduct no new foreign business while he was in office.
Trump Jr, who along with his brother Eric now runs the Trump Organization, said when critics talk about them "profiteering from the presidency and all this nonsense" they forget about "the opportunity cost of the deals that we were not able to do."
"It's sort of a shame. Because we put on all these impositions on ourselves and essentially got no credit for actually doing that ... for doing the right thing," he added.
For at least a week before Trump Jr arrived in India on Tuesday, several major Indian newspapers carried glossy, front-page advertisements with the statement, "Trump has arrived. Have you?"
The ads promised that buyers who order apartments in a new Trump-brand luxury real estate development in a suburb of the Indian capital by Thursday will get "a conversation and dinner" with Trump Jr a day later.
He is expected to visit and promote business in all the Trump-brand projects across four Indian cities. Media access to his events in the country has been limited and only news organizations chosen by his team have had access to him.
The Trump Organization has licensing agreements with all its Indian business partners. They build the properties and acquire the Trump name in exchange for a fee. With five projects in India, the country is the brand's largest market outside the United States. A luxury complex is already open in the central city of Pune, with other developments in varying stages of construction in the coastal cities of Mumbai and Kolkata, and two in Gurgaon.
All the projects were signed before President Trump took office, but promoting even existing business has raised ethics concerns.
"The president should be putting the public's interest before his business interests. That can't happen if his son is flying around the world trying to trade on the fact that his father is sitting in the Oval Office," said Scott H. Amey, general counsel for the non-partisan Project on Government Oversight in Washington.
Amey added that several foreign deals touted by the president's two adult sons have "stretched the definition of what ventures were previously in the works."
Trump Jr has made several visits to India over the years and has repeatedly talked of great business opportunities in the country.