Senior officials in France and Germany have said that the United States pays well above the market price for medical-grade masks from China’s No. 1 producer, sometimes winning contracts with higher offers even after that European buyers believed that an agreement had been reached and that the health of Brazil The Minister reported a similar incident.
“Money doesn’t matter. They pay any price because they are desperate, “a senior CDU / CSU group official in power of German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Reuters.
A German government source said, “The Americans are on the move, carrying a lot of money. “
Since the virus was first registered in China at the end of last year, the pandemic has spread around the world. Governments in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere are desperately trying to build supplies for doctors, nursing home staff and the public.
Now, with more than a million cases worldwide and the explosion in the United States, competition for precious stocks is intensifying.
President Donald Trump said on Friday that the U.S. government is now recommending that Americans voluntarily wear cloth covers over their faces to stem the spread of the virus, but guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not recommend wear medical clothing. – quality masks.
He also said he was signing a directive to stop the export of N95 respiratory masks, which provide essential protection to healthcare workers and other medical equipment in the United States.
U.S.-listed multinational 3M Co said Friday that the White House has ordered it to stop all shipments of respirators it makes in the U.S. and Canada, despite what 3M has said. called “significant humanitarian implications”.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said blocking the flow of equipment across the border would be a “mistake” that could backfire, noting that Canadian health professionals commute to work in Detroit every day .
In another case, an order for 200,000 masks to Germany from a 3M factory in China has been “confiscated” in Bangkok, Berlin interior secretary Andreas Geisel said in a statement, the calling it an “act of modern piracy”.
“Even in times of global crisis, you shouldn’t be using the Wild West methods,” he said.
An official with the US Department of Homeland Security told Reuters this week that US companies and the government had paid above market prices for most equipment purchased overseas.
The official, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter, said the United States would not stop buying “until we have too much” and could still search for protective equipment at the foreigner until August.
“We got our hands on everything we can,” said the official.
Lea Crager, spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency that coordinates the search for medical supplies abroad, said disasters often lead to higher prices for certain products.
“If it causes some kind of supply chain disruption, you’re going to see the costs go up for an essential product,” said Crager. “It just happens. “
In Brazil, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said this week that China had abandoned certain orders for Brazilian equipment when the US government sent more than 20 cargo planes to the country to buy the same products.
“Many of our purchases, which we expected to finalize in order to supply them, were abandoned,” the minister said in an interview on Wednesday.
Mandetta said on Thursday that Brazil had finally succeeded in placing an order for 1.2 billion reais ($ 228 million) in equipment, although it was only delivered in 30 days.
LIQUID IN HAND
A second German source employed by a company that is currently helping the Merkel government order masks said the last weekend in March was a turning point and linked to the increased US presence in the market.
The contracts no longer guarantee delivery, the source said, adding, “Demand is much, much more than supply.”
In France, three regional leaders painted a similar picture. Jean Rottner said it was a constant struggle to ensure that orders for masks arrived in his Grand Est region, where the epidemic first settled before spreading west to Paris.
He said the shipments changed hands at the last minute.
“On the tarmac (at the airport), the Americans take out their money and pay three or four times what we have offered,” Rottner told RTL France radio on Wednesday.
Rottner’s counterpart in the greater Paris region, Valérie Pecresse, said that she had been beaten to an order by a country with deep pockets, although she did not name the United States.
“We found supplies a few days ago, but we did not buy them after others had outbid us,” Pecresse told Franceinfo radio on Friday. “They were willing to pay three times the market price.”
The French foreign ministry said it was verifying the information. But an official doubted that action would be taken.
“It comes down to market forces,” said the official. “Whoever pays the most receives the award. “
Report by Richard Lough and John Irish in Paris, Andreas Rinke in Berlin, Ted Hesson and David Brunnstrom in Washington Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Ricardo Brito in Brasilia; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Nick Zieminski and Cynthia Osterman
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