Ivanka the exception to 'buy American' rule
BEIJING - In his inauguration speech in January, US President Donald Trump made a seemingly straightforward pledge: "We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American."
His daughter is the exception.
Even as he spoke, at least eight shipments of Ms Ivanka Trump-branded shoes, bags and clothes - more than 53.5 tonnes - were steaming towards US ports from China, according to US Customs bills of lading examined by AFP.
Mr Trump uses his presidential pulpit to censure manufacturers - both domestic and foreign - for using overseas labour to make goods for American consumers, but the Ivanka-branded orders have kept rolling in.
More than two tonnes of ladies' polyester woven blouses, 1,600 cowhide leather wallets and 23 tonnes of made-in-China footwear were among at least 82 such shipments that passed US Customs - almost one per business day - from Mr Trump's Nov 8 election win through Feb 26, records showed.
The goods were made in China by three US companies holding licences to manufacture products for Ms Trump's fashion line: garment maker G-III, Mondani Handbags and Marc Fisher Footwear.
Marc Fisher told AFP it had no comment, while the others did not respond to requests.
The first daughter's business has come under scrutiny since major US department store chain Nordstrom announced last month that it would stop carrying her products, citing poor sales.
That provoked a scathing attack from Mr Trump and his advisers, and even prompted senior counsellor Kellyanne Conway to urge Americans to go out and buy his daughter's products.
The Washington Post reported this week that many had done just that, with last month proving a banner month for the brand in terms of sales.
More than 1,200 shipments of Trump-branded products have flowed into the US from China and Hong Kong over the past decade, according to an examination of US import data last year by anti-Trump political action committee Our Principles PAC.
But Mr Trump has been notably silent on his daughter's products, which are sold in American retailers like Macy's, Lord & Taylor and TJ Maxx.
G-III alone sold US$29.4 million (S$41 million) of the goods in 2015, and sales in the first nine months of last year were up US$13.3 million over the same period the previous year, the company's public filings showed.
Mr Christopher Balding, an expert on Sino-US trade relations at Peking University in China, called it "very hypocritical to make (bringing jobs back to the US) a policy plank and manufacture her products in China".
But "in their defence... she couldn't get those products manufactured in the US at a reasonable price point".
A long-time garment industry executive who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP that simple products like polyester dresses could "definitely" be made in the US at a similar price, once savings from transportation and tariffs are factored in.
"The less labour involved in making the garment, the more they can compete with Asian manufacturers."