(WCCO/CBS) — President Donald Trump blasted the Minnesota-based company 3M in a tweet Thursday evening, after invoking the Defense Production Act to force the company to produce face masks. N95 face masks are critical for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and there have been issues with mask shortages.
“We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks. “P Act” all the way. Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing – will have a big price to pay!” Trump wrote, referring to the Defense Production Act.
Trump announced during the White House coronavirus task force briefing on Thursday that he had signed an order for 3M to produce face masks.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to do what they are supposed to do,” Trump said, without offering details.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro also said during the briefing that there had been “issues” with 3M not providing enough masks to American buyers.
“We’ve had some issues making sure that all of the production that 3M does around the world, enough of it is coming back here to the right places,” Navarro said.
Jared Moskowitz, the head of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, said in an interview on Fox News Thursday evening that he had learned 3M distributors were sending face masks to foreign countries and had refused to send him essential equipment.
In a daily briefing Friday afternoon, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Trump’s order has the state concerned.
“This is concerning, we are being told to find our own supplies,” Walz said. “They’re shutting off a source right here in Minnesota.”
3M issued a response to the order Friday, saying in part that the administration also requested that the company cease exporting respirators that they manufacture in the United States to the Canadian and Latin American markets.
“There are, however, significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a critical supplier of respirators,” 3M said.
Additionally, 3M said ceasing all export of respirators would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same.
“If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease,” 3M said.
Here’s the full statement:
Over the last several weeks and months, 3M and its employees have gone above and beyond to manufacture as many N95 respirators as possible for the U.S. market. Yesterday, the Administration formally invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to require 3M to prioritize orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for our N95 respirators.
We have been working closely with the Administration to do exactly that, and we appreciate the authorities in the DPA that provide a framework for us to expand even further the work we are doing in response to the global pandemic crisis. We look forward to working with FEMA to implement yesterday’s order.
In the course of our collaboration with the Administration this past weekend, the Administration requested that 3M increase the amount of respirators we currently import from our overseas operations into the U.S. We appreciate the assistance of the Administration to do exactly that. For example, earlier this week, we secured approval from China to export to the U.S. 10 million N95 respirators manufactured by 3M in China.
The Administration also requested that 3M cease exporting respirators that we currently manufacture in the United States to the Canadian and Latin American markets. There are, however, significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a critical supplier of respirators. In addition, ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done. If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease. That is the opposite of what we and the Administration, on behalf of the American people, both seek.
We also continue to act on reports of price gouging and unauthorized reselling related to 3M respirators. This activity is unethical and illegal. We are working with the U.S. Attorney General and attorneys general of every state, making it clear that 3M has not and will not raise prices for respirators and offering our assistance in the fight.
We look forward to working closely with the Administration to implement yesterday’s DPA order. We will continue to maximize the amount of respirators we can produce on behalf of U.S. healthcare workers, as we have every single day since this crisis began.