NYPost reports leading US manufacturers of medical safety gear told the White House that China prohibited them from exporting their products from the country as the coronavirus pandemic mounted — even as Beijing was trying to “corner the world market” in personal protective equipment, The Post has learned.
Now, the Trump administration is weighing legal action against China over its alleged actions, a lawyer for President Trump said Sunday.
“In criminal law, compare this to the levels that we have for murder,” said Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to Trump’s re-election campaign.
“People are dying. When you have intentional, cold-blooded, premeditated action like you have with China, this would be considered first-degree murder.”
Ellis said the options under consideration include filing a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights or working “through the United Nations.”
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.
The gear, valued at nearly $1.2 billion, included more than 2 billion masks and more than 25 million “protective clothing” items that came from countries in the European Union, as well as Australia, Brazil and Cambodia, the official said.
“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,” the official said.
Last week, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to order St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M to prioritize production of N95 respirators for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Michael Wessell, a founding member of the federal US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, confirmed the situation and said the Chinese maneuvering had left American hospitals “starved of PPE to fight this crisis.”
“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,” said Wessell, formerly a top staffer to ex-US Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri).
“At a time when demand was rising to deal with the crisis, China was marshaling all of the products for its own use.”