A senior German politician on Friday accused the Trump administration of “modern piracy” after nearly 200,000 face masks ordered by Germany were seized by US authorities.
Andreas Geisel, the interior minister for Berlin state, confirmed media reports that about 200,000 FFP2 masks purchased for the Berlin police were seized at an airport in the Thai capital Bangkok following intervention by American authorities.
“We view this as an act of modern piracy,” he said in a written statement, stressing that such behavior between transatlantic partners is unacceptable.
“Even in times of global crisis there should be no wild west methods. I am urging the [German] federal government to demand the US respect international rules,” he added.
According to German public broadcaster RBB, Berlin had purchased the masks from U.S. company 3M, which has factories in China.
The shipment destined for Germany was stopped at the Bangkok airport following intervention by American authorities and was diverted to the U.S., local media reported.
US criticized by France and Canada
French politicians have also recently accused the US of buying up medical protective gear including face masks in China that had been meant for France.
Valerie Pecresse, president of the hard-hit Ile-de-France region, said this week that a shipment of protective masks were snatched at the last minute by “Americans who made a higher bid,” French news agency AFP reported.
“The Americans pay cash sight unseen, which obviously can be more tempting for people just looking to make money off the entire world’s distress,” she said. Pecresse did not give further details on the buyers.
Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he felt “concerned” by a report that a mask order arrived smaller than expected and that some of it was bought by “a higher bidder.”
“We understand that the needs in the US are very extensive, but it’s the same in Canada, so we have to work together,” Trudeau said.
Most countries worldwide, unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, don’t have the capacity to manufacture the millions of masks needed on a daily basis for health workers alone.
Many governments are turning to China and other Asian manufactures to meet the demands for medical gear.