KEY POINTS

  • Germany bought 200,000 3M face masks, but their shipment never arrived
  • German officials claimed the shipment was rerouted to the United States
  • Trump has accused 3M in Minnesota of not prioritizing America, which the company denies

A shipment of 3M face masks from a factory in China was expected to arrive in Bangkok this week. The vital items meant to protect healthcare workers in the fight against coronavirus were ordered and supposed to be sent to Berlin, but it never arrived. Now, the Germans are accusing the U.S. of hijacking.

Berlin's police chief Barbara Slowik apparently told Der Tagesspiegel, a German newspaper, that a shipment of 200,000 3M face masks was rerouted to the United States. Andreas Geisel, a Berlin interior senator, also confirmed that the masks were "confiscated." German broadcaster RBB stated that the shipment was diverted by American authorities.

“We consider this an act of modern piracy. This is not how you deal with transatlantic partners,” Geisel said. "Even in times of global crisis there should be no wild west methods. I am urging the [German] federal government to demand the U.S.A. respect international rules,” the senator wrote in a statement.

But it's not just Germany accusing the U.S. of snatching its face mask shipments.

Le Journal de Montreal, a daily in Canada, reported that orders of 3M face masks meant for their local hospitals have been diverted to Ohio in what was regarded as a "computer error."

Rénaud Muselier, a French official from the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur southeastern region, also said that American buyers were at a Shanghai tarmac to buy shipments meant for France for three times the original price.

"A French order was bought out with cash by Americans on the tarmac, and the plane that was to fly to France took off for the US instead," Muselier said.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump forced 3M to prioritize producing face masks for America by invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA). Earlier, the president criticized the Minnesota-based company for shipping out COVID-19 protective equipment to other countries.

3M CEO Mike Roman said Friday that the company has been ramping up its production of 10 million N95 face masks for the U.S. even before Trump invoked the DPA.

"The idea that we’re not doing everything we can to maximize deliveries of respirators in our home country – nothing is further from the truth," Roman said.

In a statement, 3M also said that it could not stop its exports of face masks as other countries could retaliate.

“If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease," the company said.