Politicians in Berlin and Paris both said America had been using unfair means to undermine their own attempts to secure personal protective equipment.
Andreas Geisel, Germany’s interior minister, claimed the US had confiscated 200,000 masks ordered from a US producer as they transited through Thailand.
“We view this as an act of modern piracy,” he said on Friday. “You cannot act in such a way among transatlantic partners. Such wild west methods can’t dominate, even in a time of global crisis.”
A city leader in Paris, meanwhile, said unidentified Americans had paid excessive prices to secure Chinese-made masks that had already been ordered by France.
“A load was taken from us by Americans who overbid on a batch that we had identified,” Valerie Pecresse, regional president of Paris, said.
“We pay on delivery because we want to see the masks, while Americans pay cash and without looking. Of course, this is more attractive for those who just seek to turn a profit on the back of the world’s distress.”
She did not say whether the people involved were government officials, company representatives or private individuals.
But the US embassy in Paris said suggestions that the White House may have been involved in were “completely false”.
With hundreds of people now dying every day across the US and Europe, the incidents could be seen to highlight the fundamental distrust growing between the two allies – and may hamper efforts to collectively tackle Covid-19.