US president Donald Trump has again singled out Ireland, as he vowed to bring global pharmaceutical production back to the United States.
Speaking at a Fox News "townhall" interview on Sunday night in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Mr Trump was asked about China's role in making pharmaceuticals that are sold in the United States.
"It's not only China, you take a look at Ireland. They make our drugs. Everybody makes our drugs except us," he said. "We're bringing that whole supply chain back. Nobody has to tell me to do it, I've been talking about this for years." Noting that at least 94 per cent of America's medicines are made abroad, he said he hoped to bring that back to the United States within two years. "We're all about America first," he said.
The coronavirus pandemic has put a focus on America’s dependence on global supply chains for pharmaceuticals and medical devices, with China in particular under the spotlight. But Mr Trump has also pointed to Ireland’s role as a major producer of pharmaceuticals that are shipped to the United States.
In March, he said that he was looking at alternative means of production, name-checking Ireland.
“Ireland does a lot of work for us you know that in that world, in the pharma world. A very tremendous producer, and we are looking to bring a lot more back home,” he said, as the full extent of the coronavirus pandemic began to become clear. “I’ve been talking about this for many years . . . long before I decided to run for president . . .we have to be able to take care of our country.”
Ireland is a major exporter of pharmaceutical and medical supply goods to the United States. It exported $53 billion (€48.2 billion)worth of pharmaceuticals last year, 31 per cent of Ireland’s total exports. Most of this went to the United States and was produced by US companies based in Ireland.
During Sunday night's two hour interview during which he fielded questions remotely from the public, Mr Trump said he was "very confident" that there will be a vaccine for coronavirus by the end of the year. Asked if another country could come up with a vaccine first, he replied: "I don't care . . . I just want to get a vaccine that works,"adding that the US was working with other countries including Australia and the UK to develop a vaccine.
Mr Trump predicted that between 80,000 and 90,000 people in America would lose their lives due to the virus - higher than the estimate of 60,000 he previously quoted.
“It’s gone up,” Mr Trump said on Sunday. “I used to say 65,000 and now I’m saying 80 or 90 [thousand], and it’s going up and it’s going up rapidly.”
Meanwhile, US vice-president Mike Pence has apologised for not wearing a face mask last week during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, despite the health facility informing Mr Pence's team in advance that face masks were obligatory. The move was widely criticised, and Mr Pence wore a face covering to a GM factory two days later.
As tensions between the United States and China continued over coronavirus, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said there was "significant" evidence that the virus emerged from a Chinese lab. The Trump administration has blamed China for the outbreak of the virus that emerged in the city of Wuhan, though has so far refrained from imposing any measures against Beijing.
The United States has reported more than 68,000 deaths - the highest of any country in the world. However, several states have started reopening, with businesses and restaurants opening in a limited capacity in some areas of the country.