American medical manufacturers accused China of flooding the U.S. market with "ultra-cheap masks" and asked the world trade authorities to stop the dumping scheme.
The American Mask Manufacturers Association said that the Chinese government provides state subsidies to Chinese manufacturers, allowing them to sell personal protective equipment abroad for a "fraction of the cost." The association said that the World Trade Organization must act quickly to prevent a "dangerous reliance" on Chinese manufacturers, which they said makes less reliable equipment compared with American producers.
"We are urging, pleading, the WTO to take action against China's behavior," association chairman Brent Dillie said. "The flood of cheap, inferior face masks on the market threaten global efforts to curb community spread of the virus."
China's persistent effort to put American mask manufacturers out of business is a sign that the authoritarian government seeks to maintain its stranglehold over the global PPE market in the post-pandemic world. Policymakers worry that a Chinese monopoly over the life-saving supplies will weaken America's ability to withstand the next pandemic.
"Chinese capture of supply chains that produce equipment like face-masks and respirators has directly resulted in lives lost across all our countries," Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said in May 2020.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) introduced legislation to boost domestic medical equipment production and reduce dependency on China. "We need to better secure our supply chain and ensure that Americans have uninterrupted access to life-saving drugs and medical devices," he said in 2020.
Both Democrats and Republicans support strengthening domestic manufacturing of PPE goods. In February, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at finding ways to boost domestic production of PPE and other essential goods for the American economy.