US ambassador and former Iowa Gov. Branstad: China not blocking medical supply exports

Terry Branstad - AP image

Ambassador Terry Branstad also says the U.S. has concerns about how China initially handled the virus outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, but that such issues should be addressed after the pandemic has been brought under control.

Posted: Apr 15, 2020 5:54 AM

BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to China said Wednesday that he doesn’t believe Beijing is deliberately blocking exports of masks and other medical supplies to fight the coronavirus, and that the shipment of 1,200 tons of such products to the U.S. could not have been possible without Chinese support.

Ambassador Terry Branstad also said the U.S. has concerns about how China initially handled the virus outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, but that such issues should be addressed after the pandemic has been brought under control.

“Let’s focus now on saving lives and helping people,” Branstad told a small group of reporters.

Chinese officials are believed to have delayed reporting the outbreak for several crucial days in January due to political concerns, allowing the virus to spread further.

China has adamantly denied doing so, despite strong evidence, saying it has consistently provided accurate, timely information.

Despite working with half their normal staff, U.S. diplomats and local employees in China have been able to facilitate 21 flights of supplies on behalf of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with multiple private chartered flights, Branstad said.

He said there had been a slowdown in the provision of supplies, but that it appeared to be caused by China's implementation of stricter quality standards following complaints it was sending shoddy equipment abroad.

“We have been able to solve several problems. We’re just trying to find a workable way to get it done," Branstad said, adding that a March 27 telephone conversation between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, had been “really helpful.”

“We always remind them of the leaders’ commitment to work together to address these issues,” the ambassador said.

“I feel good about it and I feel that, yes, they want to enforce their laws and regulations ... we’re trying to say let’s use some common sense in doing this and if it’s Food and Drug Administration approved and companies like 3M have already been shipping these things to the United States, it doesn’t make sense to hold them up when we feel confident that it meets the quality requirements that we have."

Shipments to the U.S. began after China's own demand for such gear fell in recent weeks, alongside a sharp decline in its number of new cases and a gradual rise in people declared cured and released from hospitals.

China reported 46 new virus cases on Wednesday, 36 of them from overseas. Of the 10 domestic cases, eight were in the province of Heilongjiang that borders on Russia where authorities have been rushing to stem a new outbreak among those traveling back to China.

It said almost 1,100 people were also under quarantine as suspected cases or for having tested positive for the virus without showing symptoms. China says it has recorded a total of 3,342 deaths among 82,295 cases.

“Now with domestic Chinese demand for personal protective equipment receding to more normal levels, our mission’s most urgent priority is to help get (personal protective equipment) and medical equipment to the United States as quickly as possible," Branstad said.

Earlier, American diplomats evacuated the consulate in Wuhan and organized charter flights to bring out U.S. citizens. Worldwide, the state department has organized the return of about 60,000 U.S. citizens from more than 100 countries.

Chinese cooperation both in providing antivirus supplies and implementing the first phase of a trade deal aimed at ending disputes over tariffs and intellectual property may actually help ease friction between the world's two largest economies, said Branstad, a former long-term governor of the important agricultural state of Iowa.

“I am hopeful that because of the collaboration and work on fighting the virus, and also of course the phase one of the trade agreement, that there will be a better relationship going forward," Branstad said.

“We’re two big countries, the two biggest economies in the world. Our systems are very different and there's always going to be certain areas of tension and conflict," he said.

While saying that the two sides should not engage in political sniping, Branstad criticized a tweet by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on March 12 which said: “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

Zhao provided no evidence and the comment prompted the State Department to summon China's ambassador to protest.

Branstad said Zhao's comment was “really outrageous and counterproductive from the Chinese perspective because there’s no credibility with that and that was unfortunate.”

China has said the tweet did not constitute an official statement.

“I think we’ve moved beyond that and are focusing on the future and on cooperation," Branstad said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 480091

Reported Deaths: 6502
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin995591576
Ramsey42700795
Dakota35723383
Anoka32968383
Washington21824253
Stearns18677200
St. Louis14644262
Scott13104104
Wright12400114
Olmsted1167988
Sherburne864873
Carver755340
Clay682284
Rice664190
Blue Earth585535
Kandiyohi576374
Crow Wing514280
Chisago493344
Otter Tail478770
Benton441090
Winona413548
Mower399231
Douglas390168
Nobles385147
Goodhue382468
Polk340762
McLeod336149
Beltrami334449
Morrison321446
Lyon311343
Itasca308245
Becker306841
Isanti303052
Carlton298344
Steele297211
Pine280316
Freeborn275923
Nicollet251241
Todd243830
Brown240037
Le Sueur230120
Mille Lacs225447
Cass217224
Waseca206317
Meeker205534
Martin186628
Wabasha18503
Roseau177617
Hubbard159740
Houston156214
Dodge15114
Renville146840
Redwood146327
Fillmore13638
Chippewa135735
Cottonwood133420
Wadena128120
Pennington125716
Faribault121216
Aitkin117633
Sibley116110
Rock115313
Watonwan11478
Kanabec106619
Pipestone100724
Yellow Medicine97517
Murray9408
Jackson92310
Swift87118
Pope7875
Marshall76615
Stevens7378
Lake72517
Clearwater71414
Lac qui Parle67916
Wilkin66410
Koochiching61711
Big Stone5093
Lincoln5022
Grant4848
Norman4648
Mahnomen4367
Unassigned43568
Kittson40421
Red Lake3534
Traverse3015
Lake of the Woods2131
Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 358981

Reported Deaths: 5342
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57492544
Linn20508311
Scott18171204
Black Hawk16156286
Woodbury14835211
Johnson1371072
Dubuque13438192
Dallas1120090
Pottawattamie10678140
Story1011545
Warren549170
Clinton538983
Cerro Gordo530580
Webster514686
Marshall493372
Sioux490468
Buena Vista469436
Des Moines454059
Muscatine445989
Wapello4247107
Jasper404865
Plymouth392277
Lee372051
Marion355967
Jones293254
Henry292635
Carroll284448
Bremer276154
Crawford271235
Boone257530
Washington253344
Benton249254
Mahaska222745
Jackson219638
Dickinson215938
Tama211464
Kossuth206754
Clay192725
Hamilton191041
Delaware188739
Winneshiek186626
Fayette183832
Buchanan183128
Page181319
Hardin179538
Wright179031
Harrison178369
Cedar174722
Clayton167853
Butler165431
Floyd161939
Mills161820
Poweshiek153229
Cherokee153135
Madison152817
Hancock146429
Lyon145341
Iowa143723
Allamakee143444
Appanoose138147
Grundy138030
Jefferson137232
Winnebago136830
Calhoun133010
Cass132248
Mitchell129840
Louisa127741
Union125831
Chickasaw124513
Sac123618
Emmet120840
Shelby119433
Franklin118119
Humboldt116724
Guthrie116128
Palo Alto104021
Montgomery103636
Howard102221
Clarke99020
Keokuk97329
Unassigned9270
Monroe92128
Adair91126
Ida90732
Pocahontas85119
Davis82123
Monona81325
Greene76610
Lucas72721
Osceola69714
Worth6876
Taylor66212
Fremont5819
Decatur5709
Van Buren55918
Ringgold51516
Wayne48521
Audubon4839
Adams3264
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