Despite the effort of European manufacturers – and in particular Portuguese –, a good part of the masks used by European citizens comes through import. In the first half of 2020, the EU imported more than 14 billion euros in masks, and 92% of that amount went to China. In other words, nine out of ten masks purchased by the European Union are of Chinese origin, according to data from Eurostat, the European statistics agency.
European entities say that the option to buy Made in EU not only safeguards jobs in the powerful European textile and clothing industry, but also, in a more structured way, highlights the need for a reindustrialization strategy for the European Union.
Before Covid-19, China, with 62%, was already the main supplier of masks for the European Union, and its remarkable capacity to adapt the production after the pandemic outburst caused sales abroad to skyrocket. In the list of suppliers of masks to Europe, Vietnam (1.9%), Hong Kong (1.2%), Turkey and Tunisia (both with 0.7%) appear at a great distance.
There are major differences between the countries of the Union in terms of imports per capita. Luxembourg has stood out, with a per capita spending (in the first semester) of 121 euros. Belgium, Germany and France are above the 50 euro barrier; on the other side, Cyprus, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Greece and Bulgaria are under ten euros.