3M Co. pushed back against a request from the Trump administration to halt exports of protective face masks, saying the move would cut off critical supplies for neighboring countries and raise “significant” humanitarian concerns.
The manufacturer said Friday that it was asked by the White House to stop sending U.S.-made respirators elsewhere in North America in favor of boosting domestic supplies. 3M currently produces 35 million masks a month from a pair of U.S. factories, which serve customers across North America.
There would be “significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to health-care workers in Canada and Latin America,” the company said in a statement. Halting exports could also generate retaliation from other countries, potentially reducing the overall number of masks available in the U.S.
The comments come a day after President Donald Trump attacked 3M over face mask supplies and issued an order under the Defense Production Act to speed the output of ventilators and respirators for coronavirus patients. Trump tweeted Thursday evening that the company would “have a big price to pay” for its handling of the masks, without specifying the problem.
Though Trump didn’t detail his concerns with 3M, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said at a Thursday news conference that the administration has had concerns about whether the company’s products around the world is being delivered to the U.S. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on 3M’s assertion that it was asked to halt exports.
The issue drew the attention of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who emphasized the importance of keeping supply lines open. At a press conference Friday, he said 3M has said it’s committed to delivering masks to the country, and that Canada is in discussions with the U.S. about continuing trade in medical supplies without restrictions.
”We continue to be confident that we’re going to receive the necessary equipment,” Trudeau said. “We will do everything we can that no part of Canada goes without.”