Press Releases

In new letter, Senators express deep concern about unintended consequences of recent trade restrictions imposed by China and urge the Chinese government to ensure life-saving equipment can quickly reach U.S. health care workers and patients 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) led a group of bipartisan senators in sending a letter to Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai expressing concerns about new requirements placed on coronavirus (COVID-19) testing kits and other medical supplies manufactured in China for export. The senators note that the broad restrictions have had the unintended consequence of blocking critical, high-quality medical products from reaching the United States in a timely manner. 

In their letter, the  bipartisan lawmakers urge the Chinese government to quickly work with the U.S. Department of State and other U.S. agencies to develop a more targeted approach to its new export requirements that does not prevent critical medical supplies needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 from reaching American hospitals and health care workers.

“While we understand and appreciate China’s objective through this measure of preventing the export of low-quality products, these broad restrictions, unfortunately, appear to have the unintended consequence of blocking critical, high-quality medical products from reaching the United States in a timely manner,” the Senators wrote. “As the virus continues to spread, our states are struggling with shortages of testing kits, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies necessary to respond to this emergency. These shortages are hampering efforts to contain the virus, and placing healthcare workers and their patients at risk. With this in mind, we respectfully ask that the Chinese government work with the U.S. State Department and other U.S. agencies to quickly develop a more targeted approach to its new export requirements that does not needlessly prevent quality medical products from quickly reaching the United States.”

In addition to Senators Carper, Scott, Menendez and Tillis, the letter was also signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Full text of the letter is available here and below: 

 

April 17, 2020

 

His Excellency Cui Tiankai

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China

2201 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 110

Washington, DC 20007

 

Dear Ambassador Cui:

We write to you today to express our deep concern regarding the impact of a notice issued on March 31, 2020 by China’s Ministry of Commerce, General Administration of Customs, and National Medical Products Association (NMPA), which imposes new requirements on Chinese manufacturers that export COVID-19 testing kits and other medical supplies. While we understand and appreciate China’s objective through this measure of preventing the export of low-quality products, these broad restrictions, unfortunately, appear to have the unintended consequence of blocking critical, high-quality medical products from reaching the United States in a timely manner.

Like countries around the world, we are seeing an unprecedented public health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of individuals in the United States have fallen ill and more than 31,000 have died.[1] As the virus continues to spread, our states are struggling with shortages of testing kits, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies necessary to respond to this emergency. These shortages are hampering efforts to contain the virus, and placing healthcare workers and their patients at risk. 

Under these circumstances, it is vital that suppliers of essential medical products are able to quickly deploy these products to areas in need. We understand the good intent behind the March 31 notification, which requires exporters of certain medical products to comply not only with quality standards and other requirements of the importing country or region, including U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval or clearance, as applicable, to export to the United States, but also an NMPA registration for domestic sale in China. As we understand it, the notice was aimed at combating quality concerns related to products originating from China. While we support efforts to ensure quality control, we are concerned that this new requirement is preventing the timely export of important medical supplies. We are aware of a number of reputable American firms, including developers of COVID-19 tests, that have been forced to halt shipments of critical medical products from China to the United States.

With this in mind, we respectfully ask that the Chinese government work with the U.S. State Department and other U.S. agencies to quickly develop a more targeted approach to its new export requirements that does not needlessly prevent quality medical products from quickly reaching the United States. Specifically, we urge China to consider exempting products that may be lawfully distributed in the United States from the NMPA registration requirement, automatically allowing these products to receive the NMPA certification, or expediting the review process for these products in a manner that is appropriate to the ongoing emergency.

We appreciate your attention to this urgent request, and we hope that this matter can be resolved as expeditiously as possible so that healthcare workers and patients in our states can receive the medical supplies they urgently need. 

 

Sincerely,

 

cc:        The Honorable Michael Pompeo

            Secretary of State