Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday April 7, 2020
Trump and 3M reach deal to allow N95 face masks to be exported to Canada
The Trump administration has agreed a deal with the US manufacturer 3M to import more than 166m respirators from China over the next three months and allow 3M to continue exporting its US-made respirators.
The agreement breaks a deadlock which resulted in Washington stopping nearly three million of the specialized masks from being exported to Ontario, stirring fears that Canada’s most populous province would run out of supplies for medical staff battling coronavirus by the end of the week.
Donald Trump, who had lambasted 3M over the weekend, had warm words for the company on Tuesday, following the agreement, and its chairman and CEO, Mike Roman, offered praise for the president.
“I want to thank President Trump and the administration for their leadership and collaboration,” Roman said in a written statement. “These imports will supplement the 35 million N95 respirators we currently produce per month in the United States.”
Under the plan, 3M will import 166.5m respirators (masks which form a seal over the mouth and nose and offer much greater protection than surgical masks) from its factories in China, over the coming three months.
Meanwhile, the 3M statement said: “The plan will also enable 3M to continue sending US produced respirators to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is the primary source of supply.”
The clash with 3M and Canada began on Thursday when Donald Trump invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act giving the government “any or all authority” to stop 3M exporting N95 respirators to Canada and Latin America.
The masks, which filter out 95% of airborne particles, are seen as a critical tool for frontline healthcare workers in the fight against Covid-19
At a press conference on Monday, Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford, said the 500,000 masks had been cleared for release, but nearly three million masks were intercepted by US officials at 3M’s South Dakota Facility.
“We know that the US isn’t allowing supplies across the US border,” Ford said. “The hard truth is, our supplies in Ontario are getting very low and the more new cases we get, the more demand there is on our resources.”
3M initially resisted the president’s executive order, warning in a statement the move would have “significant humanitarian implications” for countries desperate for safety equipment.
Over the weekend, Trump harshly criticised the company, warning it would have “a big price to pay”.
“We need the masks. We don’t want other people getting it,” Trump said in a Saturday briefing to reporters. “That’s why we’re instituting [the] Defense Production Act. You could call it retaliation because that’s what it is: it’s a retaliation. If people don’t give us what we need for our people, we’re going to be very tough.” (The Guardian)