US official denies claim that Americans buying up France's masks

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 03 2020 03:33 AM

A senior US official on Thursday rejected allegations from French politicians that Americans have been snapping up Chinese masks previously ordered by France amid the coronavirus crisis, calling the stories "completely false."

The leader of the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris, accused unidentified Americans of swooping in with cash to secure shipments already promised to French buyers.

"We lost an order to the Americans who outbid us on a shipment that we had lined up," said Valerie Pecresse, the chief of France's most populous region.

Pecresse claimed that while France pays on delivery for such supplies -- crucial in the global fight against the pandemic -- "Americans pay cash" without bothering to see the goods.

They "are just looking to do business on the back of the whole world's distress," she told LCI television.

A similar accusation was made by the leader of the Grand Est region in northeastern France on Wednesday.

In Washington, a senior administration official told AFP "the United States government has not purchased any masks intended for delivery from China to France. Reports to the contrary are completely false."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday asked officials to look into similar claims that masks were being diverted away from his country, calling such reports "concerning."

"We need to make sure that equipment that is destined for Canada gets to and stays in Canada, and I've asked ministers to follow up on these particular reports," he told a press conference.

Ottawa has recognized that its stockpiles of protective medical equipment are not enough to meet demand, as it looks to care for a surge of infected patients and slow the spread of the virus.

Canada has earmarked Can$2 billion (US$1.4 billion) to buy medical equipment while asking local companies to pivot assembly lines to make masks, medical scrubs and ventilators.