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Exclusive: China Has Rapidly Increased Market Share of U.S. Medical Glove Imports During Biden Presidency

exclusive:-china-has-rapidly-increased-market-share-of-us.-medical-glove-imports-during-biden-presidency
Exclusive: China Has Rapidly Increased Market Share of U.S. Medical Glove Imports During Biden Presidency

The next time a doctor examines you, a phlebotomist draws blood from your arm, a nurse takes your temperature, or you undergo any medical procedure, there is an increased likelihood—thanks to the failures of the Democrat administration of President Joe Biden—that the Chinese made the gloves the medical professional is wearing.

Data from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) shows that since Biden took the White House in early 2021, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has rapidly seized market share for U.S. imports of nitrile medical gloves. In 2019, during former President Donald Trump’s administration and before the coronavirus pandemic, USITC import data shows that the U.S. relied upon China for about 14.2 percent of such medical gloves. Domestic manufacturing accounted for zero percent, but other countries, like Malaysia, Thailand, and more—far more friendly nations to the United States than China—made up 85.7 percent of imports.

But this picture drastically changed when Biden took office, and not for the better. In 2021, Biden’s first year in the White House, China increased its share of imports of medical gloves to the United States to 26.8 percent, while the other countries dropped to 73.1 percent. Two years later, in 2023, China increased its share of imports of medical gloves to the United States to 44.15 percent—while the other countries dropped to just 53.6 percent. In 2023, thanks to a program started during the pandemic under Trump but stymied under Biden, the U.S. made around 2.22 percent of medical gloves used domestically.

At this pace, if nothing changes, the U.S. will be dependent on China for approximately 60 percent of medical gloves used domestically in 2024.

Blue Star, a company that was set to manufacture these gloves domestically but whose efforts the Biden administration’s failures have held up, complied charts showcasing this shocking government data. These charts are being shared with congressional investigators and with Breitbart News.

Courtesy of Blue Star, based on USITC data.

The U.S. uses approximately 120 billion nitrile gloves a year, according to several estimates. Some estimate that number may be as high as 150 billion gloves. Many of them are used in medical settings—but they are also required for things like processing food or in the manufacture of semiconductors, among other uses.

More charts from USITC data show that when it comes specifically to medical grade nitrile gloves, China is, as of late 2023, the single-biggest importer of such gloves into the United States, surpassing Malaysia for the first time. When it comes to non-medical nitrile gloves, Malaysia and Thailand are still the number one and two countries, but China has similarly increased its percentages during the Biden presidency.

Courtesy of Blue Star, based on USITC data.

Courtesy of Blue Star, based on USITC data.

As Breitbart News has previously reported—as have other outlets, such as the Washington Post, Politico, and National Public Radio (NPR)—the Biden administration has dropped the ball on a project started under Trump to begin building factories in America to make these gloves domestically.

From the previous Breitbart News story on this written by Kristina Wong:

The Obama administration famously depleted the Strategic National Stockpile during the swine flu crisis in 2009 and never replenished it, forcing Trump to stand up an effort to source and manufacture PPE at home when COVID-19 hit.

The Virginia plant was part of those efforts, according to the article. The federal government spent $123 million on the project, which was to be executed by Blue Star NBR. But due to lack of action and engagement by the Biden administration, it is being mothballed.

The plant began in late 2020, finishing construction in late spring, according to the Post. It was the only plant in the country capable of producing the synthetic rubber needed to make disposable medical gloves, known as nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR). However, the factory was shut down in the fall.

A 2023 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) document from the Biden administration, detailing work that began in response to the coronavirus pandemic under the Trump administration, includes a triangle chart that lays out how the Trump administration sought to build up the domestic production of medical gloves to more than 40 billion a year. That would be nearly a third of the U.S. usage annually, an ambitious effort that began with awarding certain grants in 2020—something that later stalled out due to a lack of coordination between HHS and the Pentagon during the Biden presidency. All of the gloves manufactured in the U.S. now, slightly more than two percent of the medical gloves used, were fueled by the entirely private sector, while the federal government’s plans to push this forward have died on the vine for now at least. This chart, in particular, was created by HHS:

HHS

It is seen in this 2023 HHS document—which makes clear these efforts to begin producing these materials started under Trump back in October 2020:

HHS Document by Breitbart News on Scribd

Blue Star’s chief executive Scott Maier and other prospective domestic glove manufacturers have been briefing members of Congress and their staffs about the Biden administration’s failures, meeting with lawmakers and congressional investigators to inform them of the nation’s vulnerabilities. Maier told Breitbart News that these vulnerabilities are steep if this problem is not addressed soon.

“We recognized the supply chain issues before the pandemic that having 99 percent of a critical medical item come from overseas is not a viable model,” Maier said. “Now that we can make these things cost-competitively here in the U.S., having this 25 percent safety valve is just a good safety practice. Leaving ourselves vulnerable that any country or supply chain hiccup can cripple our healthcare system is just absurd. I liken it to: Whenever you build a hospital, you are required, by law, to have a backup generator because that is a critical piece of infrastructure that should never go down. This healthcare supply chain is just as critical. If doctors and nurses don’t have the equipment to do their job, we are in trouble. They cannot touch you without a glove on. To have all of these gloves imported from overseas and almost half of them coming from China begs the question again: Why are we putting ourselves in this position?”

Technically speaking, at this time, Maier estimates that the Strategic National Stockpile only has about a 12-day supply of medical gloves available—all of which expire in 2024. That means if the CCP so desired, Beijing could severely hamper the U.S.’s ability to respond to a medical emergency, such as another pandemic, by simply cutting off the flow of the gloves China exports to the United States on a moment’s notice.

That makes a waiver from Biden’s “Made in America” office particularly interesting. Early in 2024, Biden’s administration announced a waiver for the U.S. government to purchase more than 55 million boxes of pairs of nitrile medical gloves from overseas. The procurement waiver explicitly notes that the United States cannot meet the demand for making these at home. The document actually admits the Biden administration failed in this regard. “Currently, domestic sources for NBR are limited and due to the quantity of gloves needed by the Government, domestic sources may not be able to meet the NBR [Nitrile Butadiene Rubber] demands for this procurement,” it reads in part.

While it is unclear at this time which country these gloves may be purchased from, they may come from China in the end. But Maier told Breitbart News that as he and others have been briefing congressional officials on these shortcomings, “the reaction is from everyone their jaws drop.”

“Everyone assumed that HHS had taken care of this,” Maier said. “And when they learned that the effort was started but nothing is being produced, they can’t understand.”

What, if anything, Congress may do about this remains to be seen. But hope is fading fast as the U.S.’s vulnerability remains exposed. Trump, meanwhile, has criticized Biden most recently in a Breitbart News exclusive interview late in 2023 for Biden’s failures as president on this front and said if elected again, he would get these projects—not just this one but the many others Biden has screwed up too—back on track.

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