In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week, Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with 73 other House and Senate Democrats, called on the Trump administration to issue a worldwide temporary general license that would cover testing kits, respirators, and personal protective equipment needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, American magazine Foreign Policy, reported on Tuesday.
“The pandemic has laid bare the ways in which our broad application of sanctions is undermining public health systems, imposing sweeping economic penalties that restrict commerce in the material and equipment necessary to respond to the coronavirus and harming ordinary people,” the lawmakers wrote. “Blocking or slowing the flow of medical resources neither enables an effective outbreak response around the world, nor does it serve our national security interests.”
The incoming administration of Joe Biden would likely be able to quickly write exemptions to ease the flow of US coronavirus assistance around the world, but the next few months are critical. The pandemic is raging globally, and the Trump administration is seeking to use its final weeks in office to box in the next administration when it comes to US financial warfare.
In coordination with Israel, the administration has planned a flurry of new Iran sanctions and several other moves.
President-elect Biden has called on Trump to create licenses to allow goods to flow from pharmaceutical and medical device companies into Iran, and to create dedicated channels for banks and service firms to allow Iranians access to life-saving medical treatment. Similar licenses, issued by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, have been previously used by the administrations George W. Bush and Barack Obama to provide aid to Iran during devastating earthquakes over the past two decades.
“It is bad enough that the Trump administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in favor of a ‘maximum pressure’ strategy that has badly backfired,” Biden wrote in a Medium post in April. “It makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance.”
On Monday, Biden called for the immediate passage of the HEROES Act, a coronavirus stimulus package approved by the House earlier this year that includes $10 billion in foreign coronavirus assistance. Garcia, the Democratic lawmaker, has also supported the use of International Monetary Fund special drawing rights to give financial relief to nations desperate to pay for much-needed medical imports.