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3M Will Import 166 Million Respirators from China in White House Deal

April 7, 2020
The plan does not include a ban on exporting the face masks to Canada or Mexico.

3M says they have cut a deal with the White House to import 166.5 million N95 respirators from overseas production facilities to the United States. The announcement follows a Friday afternoon spat on April 3 when 3M resisted the President’s request that they cut off exports of their American-made masks to other North American countries.

3M CEO Mike Roman, in a statement, thanked the President for his “leadership and collaboration,” and said they share the same goals of helping provide Americans with protective equipment. According to 3M, the 166.5 million masks will be sourced mainly from a manufacturing facility in China: the White House, for its part, is working to clear any red tape that might hamper the import operation. 

The agreement also includes more measures intended to prevent price-gouging from third-party retailers, which 3M says it does not allow. Also according to 3M, the agreed-on plan will not prevent 3M from sending respirators made in the U.S. to Canada or Mexico. 3M is currently manufacturing 35 million respirators a month in the United States.

Last week, President Donald Trump made an order and two requests of 3M. First, he invoked the Defense Production Act to order the hygiene and office product conglomerate to ramp up production of N95 respirator masks. At the same time, he requested that 3M import masks made overseas and cut off exports of 3M products to Canada and Mexico.

In a statement released April 3, 3M agreed to the request to import masks, but refused to stop exporting them. The Minnesota-based conglomerate said that cutting off respirators to Canada and Mexico would cause “significant humanitarian implications” and cause a risk of retaliation.

Comments made by the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, did not explicitly threaten retaliation, but supported 3M’s position. He said an export ban on the masks would be “a mistake,” and said “3M has indicated that it understands how important it is to continue to deliver on orders to places like Canada.”

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