KEY POINTS

  • The Trump administration may take China to court for hoarding PPEs while banning the export of these vital pieces of gear
  • U.S. firms making PPEs in China have revealed China's order they not export this gear, including exports to the U.S.
  • "This would be considered first-degree murder," a Trump adviser noted

The Trump administration may file criminal charges before the United Nations or another world body accusing China of hoarding supplies of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to combat COVID-19 while prohibiting local manufacturers from exporting these items to foreign buyers.

Administration officials revealed testimonies from executives of American firms producing industrial and medical gear in China who state the communist government is coercing them into not exporting their products to other countries, including the United States, a New York Post report revealed.

Among these firms are the 3M Company, which makes the much in demand N95 respirators at a plant in Shanghai, and Honeywell International Inc. that manufactures the Honeywell Sperian Saf-T-Fit Plus N95 Disposable Respirator with exhalation valve at plants in Zhangjiagang City, Jiangsu Province. On Saturday, Honeywell said it will produce more than six million N95 masks for Arizona over the next year at its re-tooled Phoenix Aerospace site to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

China has not exported any N95 masks since February 19. 3M said most of the masks made at their Shanghai plant had been sold prior to the pandemic breaking out in China in January. It couldn't confirm when exports of N95s from China will resume.

The shortages of masks and protective gear in the U.S. was also due to shipments from China being halted after the Chinese government banned manufacturers from exporting these items. On the other hand, White House adviser Peter Navarro claimed the shortage of N95 respirators is because China decided to "nationalize effectively 3M, our company."

At the same it banned exports of these critical protective products, China also bought massive amounts of these supplies from other countries in a blatant attempt to corner the market, a White House official said, the Post noted. Official Chinese government data shows China imported 2.46 billion pieces of “epidemic prevention and control materials” between January 24 and February 29 valued at nearly $1.2 billion.

The materials included more than two billion facemasks and more than 25 million items of protective clothing. China bought these PPE items from the European Union, Australia, Brazil and Cambodia.

WHO has warned dwindling supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers will put lives at risk WHO has warned dwindling supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers will put lives at risk Photo: AFP / MAHMUD HAMS

“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.

China's hoarding and export ban was confirmed by Michael Wessell, a founding member of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressional commission responsible for monitoring and investigating national security and trade issues between the U.S. and China.

Wessell said China's actions had left American hospitals “starved of PPE to fight this crisis.” He noted "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."

On the other hand, right-wing pundits were incensed by China's actions.

“People are dying," Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to Trump’s re-election campaign, told the Post.

"When you have intentional, cold-blooded premeditated action like you have with China, this would be considered first-degree murder.”

Ellis said the options being considered by the Trump administration include filing a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights or working “through the United Nations.”

Steve Bannon, Trump's former White House chief strategist, said the behavior of the Chinese government was equivalent to 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.