GOP Lawmaker Asks USDA to Reconsider Importing Chinese Citrus Fruits, Says 'We Cannot Trust' China's Government

Georgia Representative Doug Collins, a Republican, asked the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to reconsider its plan to import citrus fruits from China as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in a Monday letter.

China, which is generally recognized as the starting point of the coronavirus, has been accused by some U.S. lawmakers of not being transparent and forthcoming with their knowledge about the virus. Others say the country has released incorrect statistics, giving media outlets death toll numbers that diminish how many coronavirus deaths have actually occurred.

Collins' letter acknowledged the importation of citrus fruits from China as an important part of trade agreements, but said that "the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all firsthand that we cannot trust the word of the Chinese government."

According to an April statement from APHIS, the agreement is designed to prevent pests from entering the U.S. from China, such as fruit flies. "Postharvest disinfection and treatment" are required for the fruit as well as certification that the fruit is "free of quarantine pests."

Collins expressed doubts that China would live up to their end of the agreement in his letter.

"As China's early coverup of the COVID-19 outbreak and their continued lies about its origin have proven," Collins wrote, "the Chinese government cannot be trusted to act in the best interest of public health."

Newsweek reached out to APHIS for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

doug collins
Georgia Representative Doug Collins asked the USDA on Monday to reconsider its plan to allowe citrus fruits to be imported to the U.S. from China. Alex Wong/Getty

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is currently "no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects."

President Donald Trump said during Friday's White House coronavirus task force briefing that China had suffered more deaths than the U.S. from coronavirus, despite the numbers released from China's government.

"I listen to the press every night saying we have the most in the world, we don't have the most in the world—deaths," Trump said. "The most in the world has to be China. It's a massive country. It's gone through a tremendous problem with this. And they must have the most."

Recent data indicates that China has reported a total of 82,747 positive cases of coronavirus within the country. While 4,632 have died as a result of coronavirus, 77,084 were reported as having totally recovered.

Some U.S. lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow Americans to sue China for damages inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton and Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw unveiled the Holding the Chinese Communist Party Accountable for Infecting Americans Act of 2020.

"By silencing doctors and journalists who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party allowed the virus to spread quickly around the globe," Cotton said in a Thursday statement. "Their decision to cover up the virus led to thousands of needless deaths and untold economic harm. It's only appropriate that we hold the Chinese government accountable for the damage it has caused."