The Chinese Communist Party sought to manage the global political fallout from shipping thousands of defective coronavirus test kits and protective masks on Wednesday by announcing new export restrictions on medical supplies from companies that lack the necessary licenses to sell them in foreign markets.
The South China Morning Post reported the new rules were issued after European customers complained about “the quality and accuracy of test kits and other products” purchased from Chinese vendors:
The new rule applies to all companies seeking to export test kits, face masks, protective clothing, ventilators and infrared thermometers, according to a joint statement issued on Tuesday by the Ministry of Commerce, General Administration of Customs and the National Medical Products Administration.
Previously, Chinese exporters were required only to have CE certification to indicate their goods conformed to the health and safety standards required for sale within the European Economic Area.
The statement said also that companies must demonstrate to the Chinese customs agency that their products meet the relevant standards of the countries to which there goods are being exported.
The new rules would be tightly implemented and any company caught trying to undermine or circumvent them would be punished accordingly, it said.
Also on Tuesday, the commerce ministry released a list of manufacturers that have obtained the relevant licenses and registrations from the National Medical Products Administration – formerly known as the China Food and Drug Administration – for use by overseas buyers in search of qualified suppliers.
The SCMP noted that 102 Chinese companies hold CE accreditation, but only 21 of them are licensed to sell medical products inside China.
A Chinese industry executive was quoted saying many of the other companies will be forced to back out of big sales contracts signed with foreign buyers during the pandemic, inflicting considerable financial losses on those companies that already purchased the components they needed to fill the overseas orders.
Another exec pointed out that getting the licenses now required by the Chinese government could take “one to three years,” since a fast track for approval created during the Wuhan virus outbreak has been shut down.
Chinese officials responded to the complaints of faulty equipment from Europe by accusing end users in countries like Spain and the Netherlands of using the gear improperly and misinterpreting test results. They also blamed the recipients of the defective products for not thoroughly investigating Chinese companies offering big discounts on much-needed supplies. Mixed in with these unpleasant accusations was a promise from Chinese officials to crack down on unlicensed exports.