China will not restrict export of medical supplies

Hong Kong – China has insisted it will not restrict exports of medical supplies amid growing demand for equipment such as masks and gowns around the world.

“We will not forget that at the beginning of the fight against the epidemic, many countries gave us a helping hand,” Jiang Fan, from the department of foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, said on Sunday.

“Therefore, when the situation in China is getting better and overseas epidemic conditions are accelerating, we are willing to make relevant efforts on the basis of epidemic prevention and control to provide support and assistance … China does not and will not restrict the export of medical supplies.”

China exported a total of 10.2 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) worth of medical supplies between March 1 and April 4, according to Jin Hai, deputy director for general affairs at the General Administration of Customs.

These products included about 3.9 billion masks, 37.5 million pieces of protective clothing and 2.4 million infrared thermometers.

China also exported 16,000 ventilators, 2.8 million boxes of new coronavirus test kits and 8.4 million pairs of goggles, Jin said.

But some European buyers have complained about the poor quality of the equipment.

Spain, for example, withdrew an order for 58,000 test kits bought form a Chinese company after it was found to have an accuracy rate of just 30 per cent..

“Some media completely blamed China’s product quality but it was due to many reasons,” Jiang said. “For example, the standards of Chinese and foreign products are different, there are differences in how they are typically used, and improper use can also raise doubts about the quality.”

She also said a batch of non-medical masks that China exported to the Netherlands had been approved and distributed to local hospitals. China is among the biggest exporters in the world when it comes to surgical masks, protective gowns, and ventilators, which are all essential to fight the pandemic.

As the number of Covid-19 infections has grown outside China, more governments have introduced export curbs on medical supplies.

According to Global Trade Alert, a Swiss-based trade watchdog, dozens of restrictions have been announced in recent weeks and 54 governments had announced restrictions by March 21.

The watchdog said that Bulgaria, France, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey and Britain had implemented “multiple export curbs” on medical supplies, while mainland China, Taiwan and Germany had relaxed their controls to a certain degree.

Earlier this week, Chinese manufacturers of coronavirus test kits and related medical supplies were told they would no longer be allowed to export their products unless they had a licence to sell them domestically.

The new rule applies to all companies seeking to export test kits, face masks, protective clothing, ventilators and infrared thermometers, according to a joint statement issued on April 1 by the Ministry of Commerce, General Administration of Customs and the National Medical Products Administration.

Jiang said China would not tolerate counterfeit products and it would strengthen its supervision and punish those that violate the regulations.

“While China takes the initiative to strictly control the quality of exported products, we also hope that relevant countries and regions will carry out import checks,” Jiang said.

“As for the relevant issues that arise in the procurement, we recommend that the companies of both parties conduct full communication, negotiate and resolve in accordance with the terms in the contract.” (SCMP)