Donald Trump Jr. dismisses ethics concerns in India

Donald Trump Jr. kicked off a tour of India on Tuesday with praise for the country's business climate under Prime Min...

Posted: Feb 20, 2018 1:28 PM
Updated: Feb 20, 2018 1:28 PM

Donald Trump Jr. kicked off a tour of India on Tuesday with praise for the country's business climate under Prime Minister Narendra Modi while facing questions about potential conflicts of interest.

After landing in New Delhi, President Trump's eldest son told local journalists that Modi's program of reforms "will be very positive for the country," according to the Press Trust of India. "It will open up the country to much more outside investment from places like the United States," he was quoted as saying.

But Trump Jr. did not respond to a question from CNN outside the New Delhi meeting about whether his visit to the Trump Organization's biggest international market would fuel concerns about mixing business and politics.

Trump's schedule in the coming days includes a dinner to mark the official launch of the Trump Towers development in Kolkata (later on Tuesday) and another with buyers of apartments in the Trump Towers in Gurgaon, outside New Delhi (on Friday).

The dinners -- and a massive advertising campaign before the trip by one of Trump's Indian business partners -- have reignited criticism from ethics experts.

National newspaper ads encouraged buyers to sign up for Trump-branded condos in Gurgaon early with the promise of "a conversation and dinner" with Trump Jr.

Related: Donald Trump Jr. will dine with apartment buyers in India

"They are auctioning off access to the first family in a foreign land," Norman Eisen, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told CNNMoney on Monday.

"What is to stop a foreign national with interests before the U.S. government from asking Don Junior to raise some issue or concern with his father?"

Trump Jr. took over day-to-day operations of the business along with his brother when their father took office.

In addition to meeting Indian journalists, Trump Jr. addressed a group of local stakeholders in the Trump Towers project in Gurgaon. The complex -- where apartments cost between $800,000 and $1.6 million -- is being built by M3M India in partnership with Tribeca Developers, the Trump Organization's main representative in India.

The Trump Organization and its India partners did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This week's itinerary also includes visits to Trump-branded properties in Mumbai and Pune. The Trump Organization is not building any of the towers in India, instead it has licensed the name to local developers.

And while the Trump company's top executive has no meetings scheduled with Indian government officials, he will address a business summit in the capital on Friday that Modi is also set to attend.

Trump Jr. will speak on "Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation" according to the event schedule.

-- CNN's Nikhil Kumar and Sugam Pokharel contributed to this report

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