3 M Respirator N95 Mask Yongheng Lim Dreamstime

3M Resists White House Request to Stop Mask Exports

April 3, 2020
The manufacturing giant said Trump’s order to ship masks in from other countries would cause “significant humanitarian implications.”

President Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act a second time to order a major manufacturer to produce more medical equipment. This time, he ordered 3M, an international conglomerate that makes office supplies, health care, and other consumer goods, to produce more N95 face masks, to ship face masks produced in 3M’s international facilities back to the United States, and to cease exporting masks made in the United States to other North American countries.

Unlike President Trump’s earlier invocation of the DPA against General Motors, though, 3M pushed back on one of the President’s demands. In a statement issued April 3 by the St. Paul-based conglomerate, 3M assented to prioritize government orders of the N95 face masks, also known as respirators, and to ship more respirators back to the United States from China.

But 3M balked at the President’s request to stop exporting their masks, and offered reasons why doing so would be a bad idea. The company called themselves a “critical supplier” for healthcare workers in Canada and Mexico and said cutting off exports would cause “significant humanitarian implications.”

The President did not explicitly order 3M to stop exporting under the DPA. In a memorandum, the White House said the Secretary of Homeland Security was enabled to use “any and all authority available under the Act to acquire, from any appropriate subsidiary or affiliate of 3M Company, the number of N-95 respirators that the Administrator determines to be appropriate.”

3M also suggested the move would counterintuitively reduce the United States’ ability to access masks. “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,” they said.

An official from at least one of those countries had something to add. In comments, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said that restricting 3M’s exports to Canada would be “a mistake.” The Prime Minister did not imply that Canada would retaliate but praised 3M’s statement on the subject: “3M has indicated that it understands how important it is to continue to deliver on orders to places like Canada,” he said.

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