The White House is reportedly considering legal action against China for blocking the export of personal protective equipment (PPE) and attempting to “corner the world market.”
According to the New York Post, 3M and Honeywell executives have told U.S. officials that the Chinese government in January began to prevent those American based firms from shipping N95 masks, disposable gloves, and other PPE that are produced in the companies’ China factories.
“In criminal law, compare this to the levels that we have for murder,” said Jenna Ellis, a senior attorney connected with Trump’s re-election campaign. Ellis told the Post that possible actions include filing a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights or working “through the United Nations.”
“People are dying,” she said. “When you have intentional, cold-blooded premeditated action like you have with China, this would be considered first-degree murder.”
A White House official indicated that China paid the companies standard wholesale prices for their PPE products, while prohibiting the life-saving items from being sold to anyone else.
Meanwhile, the official pointed out, during the same period–between January 24 and February 29, China also imported 2.46 billion pieces of “epidemic prevention and control materials” valued at almost $1.2 billion. That gear included more than 2 billion masks and 25 million “protective clothing” pieces that were produced in the European Union, Australia, Brazil, and Cambodia.
“Data from China’s own customs agency points to an attempt to corner the world market in PPE like gloves, goggles, and masks through massive increased purchases – even as China, the world’s largest PPE manufacturer, was restricting exports,” said the official.
The moves by China resulted in American hospitals being “starved of PPE to fight this crisis,” said Michael Wessell, a founding member of the federal US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “We understand that China has engaged in policies to try and not only develop its own capabilities, but to do so at expense of producers around the world,” he said. “At a time when demand was rising to deal with the crisis, China was marshaling all of the products for its own use.”
“Some of China’s actions are probably illegal, but to bring cases when you’re in the middle of the crisis does little good for the patients who are in the hospital on ventilators — and might not have been there had they had access to PPE,” said Wessell.
Wessell indicated that China has recently begun easing exports on PPE gear but that, “they’re using it for soft power, essentially saying it’s a humanitarian gesture to try to curry goodwill with American people when some of the problems we’re facing are the direct result of Chinese policies.”
Chinese manipulation of the PPE market is “political warfare, according to Christian Whiton, a former senior diplomacy and trade adviser to the George W. Bush and Trump administrations. “It looks like a coordinated effort between the Chinese government and industry where they used to be nothing but exporters of this stuff but now they turned around and they’re importing it while banning all exports,” said Whiton, who now is a senior fellow for strategy and trade at the Center for National Interest.
“What is most interesting to me, when we get through this crisis I think there’s rage, not just concern, but rage in Congress about China and from the American people that China is culpable one way or the other,” he said.
Former Trump White House adviser Steven Bannon said the intentional actions of the Chinese government was essentially a “biological Chernobyl.”
“The same people that understood this virus had human-to-human transmission and was going to be a pandemic were at the same time vacuuming up every piece of PPE from the U.S, Brazil and Europe,” said Bannon. “They’re at war with the West. This story shows the world what Chinese citizens are dealing with.”
Following the news of potential legal action by the Trump administration on Sunday, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published a story indicating that the Chinese government now “promises not to restrict exports of medical supplies.”
“We will not forget that at the beginning of the fight against the epidemic, many countries gave us a helping hand,” said Jiang Fan, from the department of foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, according to SCMP. “Therefore, when the situation in China is getting better and overseas epidemic conditions are accelerating, we are willing to make relevant efforts on the basis of epidemic prevention and control to provide support and assistance … China does not and will not restrict the export of medical supplies.”
Clearly, American companies need to bring their production facilities back to the U.S. Failing to do so, clearly puts American lives and interests at risk.
“Executives from 3M and Honeywell told US officials that the Chinese government in January began blocking exports of N95 respirators, booties, gloves and other supplies produced by their factories in China”
Note these are their *own* factories. Decouple.https://t.co/0ZZyzl45lg
— Hans Mahncke (@HansMahncke) April 6, 2020
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