US slammed for 'modern-day piracy' after Germany and France accuse it of 'hijacking' masks meant for them

A Berlin-based official on April 3, accused Washington of diverting a delivery of China-made face masks that were going to Germany.


                            US slammed for 'modern-day piracy' after Germany and France accuse it of 'hijacking' masks meant for them
Angela Merkel, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron (Getty Images)

The ‘camaraderie’ of the West was exposed once again this week as France and Germany accused the US of seizing millions of masks that were set to be shipped to West Europe in times of the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to a report in AFP, a Berlin-based official on Friday, April 3, accused Washington of diverting a delivery of China-made face masks that were going to Germany. The official accused the US of “modern-day piracy” in a time when countries are racing against each other to obtain more masks to cater to their overgrowing domestic demand. Recently, it was revealed that China stockpiled masks and other medical gear in countries like Australia through their companies and imported them when the pandemic was slowly picking pace. 

On Friday, April 3, President Donald Trump said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that people wear cloth or fabric face coverings (that can be even made at home) while entering public spaces like stores and public transit stations. The US authorities started procuring the urgently needed protective kit against the pandemic late but have accelerated things now. Trump recently invoked the Defense Production Act to get his nation’s firms to divert their resources to fight the pandemic that has hit over 277,000 people in America

But the US’ own preventive measures have now started impacting its foreign relations. Andreas Geisel, Berlin’s state minister of the interior, said in a statement that FFP2 masks numbering in 200,000 were “confiscated” in Bangkok, Thailand. Those masks were made by 3M, a China-based American firm and were to be shipped for the use of Berlin police. 

“At the moment we assume this is in connection with the US government's export ban on masks,” said Geisel’s statement. Geisel also slammed the US, saying it was resorting to “methods from the Wild West”. “We see this as an act of modern-day piracy,” he said, requesting the German government to remind the US to “comply with international rules”.

A researcher works in a lab that is developing testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus at Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation on February 28, 2020 in Nutley, New Jersey. (Getty Images)

The Financial Times quoted the Berlin official as saying: “You don't treat your transatlantic partners like that.”

German newspaper Bild reported that the hijacked shipment of the masks was then sent to the US. It was on Friday, April 3, that Trump slammed the same firm in a tweet saying the administration “hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their masks”.

"P Act" all the way. Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing – will have a big price to pay!", he wrote, citing the Defense Production Act.

France accuses US of hijacking masks that they ordered

Officials in France also came up with similar complaints this week saying the US targeted Chinese masks that the French ordered, after apparently outbidding them in a shipment that had lined up already. 

France claimed that on Thursday, April 2, American buyers paid three times the current rate to secure a shipment of face masks from China that was set to be dispatched. Jean Rottner, a doctor and president of France’s GrandEst regional council, told Germany’s RTL Radio that the American buyers had arrived at the tarmac to offer the cash. 
A senior American official told the AFP that the French claims were not right. 
 
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also asked his officials to look into similar claims that masks were being shipped away from his country and called the reports “concerning”. 

Germany has seen over 91,000 people getting hit by the coronavirus and 1,275 dead. France has over 65,000 positive cases but with a much higher death toll of 6,520. In the US, the death tally has gone past 7,100. 

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