By Laura Kemp • 28 April 2020 • 9:31
According to Spanish diplomatic sources, Chinese authorities have been blocking several containers full of medical equipment purchased and paid for in advance by the Ministry of Health for several weeks now.
The Spanish Embassy and the commercial office in Beijing have been carrying out efforts, so far unsuccessful ones, to try to and convince Chinese customs to allow the export of these products intended to fight the new coronavirus pandemic.
Although he did not specifically refer to Spain, the scenario was explained on Sunday by Li Xingqian, the director of the department of Foreign Trade, “work is being done” he said, to “combat exports of counterfeit and poor quality products and other behaviours that disrupt market orders and exports.”
This is the second time this month that Beijing has announced an increase in its controls, which can ultimately lead to the seizure of the inspected material. Xinhua reported that as of last Sunday, 89 million defective masks and 400,000 protective equipment for toilets had also been seized.
Chinese authorities want to make sure that their sales to Spain reach the highest quality standards, and to check this they retain a significant batch of products. Over the past few weeks, Chinese companies have exported defective material to several European countries, but it is perhaps in Spain that these purchases have provoked greater criticism from the Chinese government that made them and from the authorities in Beijing that allowed them to be exported.
“For that reason, the measure affects us especially,” says a source familiar with the Spanish-Chinese trade. “In Beijing, there is growing concern about the reputational damage that defective products can bring to the country,” he concludes.
The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has acknowledged that this problem exists, but stressed that the bilateral relationship with China remains “most cordial.”
“These newly established control regulations not only affect Spain but other importing countries,” said an authorised diplomatic source.
The Chinese embassy in Madrid expressed its discomfort with the angry reactions of media outlets, politicians, and the population Spain – not those of the Pedro Sánchez’s Executive – about the failed purchase.
At the end of March and at the beginning of April, he posted several tweets “regretting the confusing interpretation that is being made in some media of our statements regarding the tests (…).” He later highlighted that “many take advantage of the Covid-19 crisis to spread lies and stigmatise China.” He lashed out at those trying to “achieve their own (…) political ends.”
A report by the World Health Organisation highlighted, on April 12, that China, the USA and Germany accounted for 34 per cent of the world production of sanitary products related to Covid-19 and 40 per cent of personal protective equipment. China was also the one country that could increase its manufacture more rapidly to keep up with demand.
Although they do not all sell defective products, some Chinese companies have resorted to other unethical practices. They have undone contracts signed when their supplies were about to ship at the airport to sell to another buyer, often an American buyer, for double or triple their price. Three regions of France, starting with the Ile-de-France, which includes Paris, have reported that their orders were taken from the same airport runways where they were waiting to receive shipments, an issue that has been denied by the President Donald Trump’s Administration.
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Originally from UK, Laura is based in Axarquia and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features.
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