Customs to seize exports of masks and gloves amid coronavirus pandemic

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The federal government will begin seizing exports of personal protective equipment, or PPE, until it decides if the tools should be kept in the country to fight the coronavirus.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced Wednesday it will prevent respirators, surgical masks and surgical gloves from leaving the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will then determine if the equipment should be returned, purchased by the government or exported.

“FEMA and CBP are working together to prevent domestic brokers, distributors, and other intermediaries from diverting these critical medical resources overseas,” the two agencies said in a joint statement.

The announcement comes days after President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to stop the flow of critical equipment outside of the country. 

“Today’s order is another step in our ongoing fight to prevent hoarding, price gouging, and profiteering by preventing the harmful export of critically needed PPE,” the White House said in a statement. “It will help ensure that needed PPE is kept in our country and gets to where it is needed to defeat the virus.” 

Trump clarified last week he will not prevent the sale of any PPE to other countries with “long-term orders,” particularly if they are dealing with significant coronavirus outbreaks.

Foreign governments have panned the White House’s decision, suggesting it could lead to retaliation and obstruct international cooperation. 

“These are things that Americans rely on, and it would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services, including medical goods, across our border,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday, noting that thousands of nurses cross the American-Canadian border each day to work in Detroit hospitals. 

Tags Coronavirus Customs and Border Protection Donald Trump Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA Justin Trudeau Personal protective equipment PPE
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