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Minnesota-based manufacturing giant 3M warned Friday that a Trump administration order to reserve U.S. N95 masks for the U.S. market could backfire. The demand for these masks, also known as respirators, has increased in recent weeks as they help protect health workers from COVID-19 infection.
"Stopping the export of US-made respirators would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same," warned a 3M statement. "In that case, the net number of respirators that are made available to the United States would actually decrease."
The statement was in response to President Trump's decision Thursday to enforce the Defense Manufacturing Act against 3M. The 1950 law gives the President extensive powers to instruct US companies to provide production capacity for products that are essential to national defense.
Trump appealed to the law last week to commission GM to make fans. (GM had already planned this, but Trump said it was "wasting time" negotiating a federal treaty.) He called on the law again on Thursday to help several other manufacturers "secure the supplies they needed for the Need construction of ventilators ".
Also on Thursday, the president referred to the law requiring 3M to reserve all US-made N95 masks for the US market – a move that would harm 3M customers in Canada and Latin America.
"We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they did with their masks," Trump tweeted Thursday night. "& # 39; P Act & # 39; all the way. Big surprise to many in the government for what they did – will have to pay a high price!"
"It would be a mistake"
Trump's move sparked a sharp reaction from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said it was a "mistake" for the US to stop delivering medical supplies to its American neighbors and closest allies. He pointed out that goods flow in both directions across the US-Canadian border.
"It would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the back and forth trade in essential goods and services, including medical goods, across our border," said Trudeau.
Much of the N95 mask manufacture – including 3M manufacture – is overseas. For example, 3M produces many of its N95 masks in Singapore, the Financial Times reports. One of the reasons for the tension between 3M and the White House is that 3M opposed the U.S. demands to redirect 10 million masks from Singapore to the U.S. Otherwise, these masks would go to nearby Asian markets.
"The company was hesitant for legal and humanitarian reasons to accept the White House's request because medical professionals would not receive protection across the region," a source told the Financial Times. "3M executives have committed to export a similar number of masks from a plant in China to the United States, but that hasn't stopped the White House from attacking the company publicly."
"In the past few days we have had some problems ensuring that all of 3M's production around the world returns to the right places," said White Navy's trade advisor Peter Navarro on Thursday.