President Donald Trump slammed 3M Co. in a tweet after announcing he was invoking the Defense Production Act to get the company to produce face masks — an attack prompted by the company refusal to divert millions of its masks to the U.S. from other markets.
"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 said on Twitter late Thursday.
3M refused to send 10 million N95 respirator masks from it Singapore hub to the U.S., Financial Times reported Friday, citing an unidentified person with direct knowledge of the matter.
3M responded that it has increased production of respirator masks significantly and was already working with the administration to prioritize orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The latest actions offer a framework to “expand even further the work we are doing in response to the global pandemic crisis,” 3M said.
“We’ve been in constant discussions” with the administration, 3M Chief Executive Officer Mike Roman said Friday on CNBC. “The narrative that we aren’t doing everything we can as a company is just not true.”
The company described the White House request as one directing the company to stop exporting the products from the U.S. While 3M said it has worked to increase the number of masks imported from its overseas factories, including approval to ship 10 million respirators from China, part of its U.S. production is needed in Canada and Latin America.
There would be “significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers” in neighboring countries, 3M said in the statement. The company has ramped up production to 100 million masks a month, about 35 million of which are produced in the U.S.
At a White House briefing on the coronavirus pandemic Thursday, Trump announced he had signed a Defense Production Act order for 3M to produce face masks. "Hopefully they'll be able to do what they are supposed to do," he said, without elaborating.
St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M's brands include Scotch, Post-It, and Nexcare, as well as healthcare products for professionals.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said at the briefing, "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."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the president's tweet.
N-95 face masks made by 3M and other companies are in short supply among healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients.
The Defense Production Act, which was passed in 1950, grants the president the power to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to issue guidelines in the next few days that could tell Americans to wear face masks when leaving home.
This report contains material from Reuters and Bloomberg News.
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