U.S. President Donald Trump stated that US-based manufacturer 3M "will have a big price to pay" after the company resisted the White House's attempt to force it to export 10 million N95 masks from Singapore to the U.S..
Trump invokes Korean War-era Act against 3M
According to the Financial Times (FT), the company had resisted on the grounds that doing so would deprive medical workers in Asia of protection, quoting a source with "direct knowledge of the matter."
The masks are produced by 3M's hub in Singapore and are exported to countries in Asia.
On Apr. 3, Trump put out the following statement on social media, saying that he had invoked the Defense Production Act against the company:
Under this Act, an American company must sell its products to the U.S. government upon request.
"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!
The Act was first passed in 1950, at the time of the Korean War.
Company had committed to exporting masks to the U.S. from China
FT further reported that 3M committed to exporting a similar number of masks to the U.S. from a plant in China.
The company's brands include Scotch, Post-It and Nexcare, and healthcare products for professionals.
White House trade advisor Peter Navarro stated, as per the New York Times (NYT):
"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 U.S. is in dire need of masks
NYT further reported that the U.S. is currently facing a shortage of the N95 masks produced by 3M and other firms for healthcare workers who treat Covid-19 patients.
As such, healthcare professionals working on the frontline, overwhelmed with the rising number of Covid-19 cases across the country, have resorted to reusing protective gear such as masks and eye masks.
Some have even turned to makeshift equipment to replace masks and protective suits.
U.S. has refused to import a viable alternative
The U.S. federal government has refused to import an alternative to the N95 masks that is in abundance — the KN95 masks, which are largely manufactured in China.
The American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed the KN95 mask as one of the “suitable alternatives” when it comes to providing protection during the Covid-19 response when “supplies are short”.
However, KN95 masks cannot be legally imported by American hospitals as they are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
And in spite of the pressing need for masks, the FDA had failed to include KN95 masks from China in an emergency authorisation for non-N95 masks.
Top image collage left photo from Donald Trump Facebook, middle photo from Kai Hendry via Flickr, right image from 3M Facebook