Trump Weighs Legal Action Against China Over PPE Hoarding As International 'Mask Wars' Heat Up

The Trump administration is considering legal action against China after leading US manufacturers of medical safety gear say Beijing has prohibited them from exporting goods in what the New York Post says was a bid to "corner the world market" in personal protective equipment (PPE).

"In criminal law, compare this to the levels that we have for murder," said Trump re-election campaign senior legal adviser, Jenna Ellis, who says that legal options include filing a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights or working 'through the United Nations."

"People are dying. When you have intentional, cold-blooded, premeditated action like you have with China, this would be considered first-degree murder," she added.

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, according to a senior White House official.

China paid the manufacturers their standard wholesale rates, but prohibited the vital items from being sold to anyone else, the official said.

Around the same time that China cracked down on PPE exports, official data posted online shows that it imported 2.46 billion pieces of “epidemic prevention and control materials” between Jan. 24 and Feb. 29, the White House official said. -New York Post

In total, nearly $1.2 billion in gear - which included over 2 billion masks and 25 million "protective clothing" items which came from EU countries, along with Australia, Brazil and Cambodia according to the White House official.

"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," they added.

'Mask wars'

The shortage of vital protective equipment has pitted neighboring countries - and even US states - against each other, resulting in accusations of theft and modern piracy, according to the CBC. The United States, in particular, has been accused of stymying efforts by allies to procure said equipment - by allegedly attempting to scuttle European deals for purchases from China, as well as attempting to halt exports of US-made N95 masks to Canada and Latin America last week.

That said, a Berlin senator who accused the US of "piracy" by diverting a shipment of protective masks slated for delivery in the German capital has reversed his position - saying that no US firms were involved in the case of the still-missing masks.

The CBC suggests that 'the apparent desperation of some of the wealthiest countries on earth' comes as a surprise which has 'justifiably raised eyebrows in less fortunate parts of the world' which are now preparing for coronavirus to hit, yet with a fraction of the resources.

Striking selfishness

"It's normal for countries to take care of their own citizens first," said University of Ottawa professor of international affairs and former Trudeau adviser, Roland Paris - who added that the selfishness and lack of coordination among leading countries "is striking."

"We're unfortunately seeing a mad scramble to grab whatever's available, to hell with the other guy," added Paris, who's apparently unfamiliar with game theory.

Even more stark, the mask wars have seen American and other buyers scuttling European and Brazilian deals, some even snatching shipments already promised to other jurisdictions by outbidding them—even "on the tarmac" as planes prepared to take off. Some shipments reportedly just disappear. -CBC

Not just masks...

While global PPE supplies have run critically short, nearly half the supply of hydroxychloroquine - the Trump-touted treatment for COVID-19, comes from India - which has banned exports of all form of the 'game-changing' drug.

Consequently - while China is without a doubt the biggest antagonist to the US, India is beginning to grate on Trump’s nerves despite his nominally cordial relationship with Modi. According to data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence, 47% of the U.S. supply of the drug last year came from India makers. Only a handful of suppliers in the top 10 are non-Indian, such as Actavis, now a subsidiary of Israeli generics giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. Still, it’s likely that some of their production facilities are nevertheless located in India.

India’s export ban on the drug is aimed at ensuring it has enough supply for domestic use after the American president’s endorsement sparked global stockpiling of the medication. Now, Trump’s decision to tout the drug will cause major shortages in the US. 

Imagine if the United States hadn't exported the manufacture of just about everything?