President Trump “hit 3M hard” late Thursday night after Fox News host Tucker Carlson exposed the company has been selling face masks to foreign countries during the COVID-19 pandemic and not filling requests from U.S. purchasers.
“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 president tweeted.
Mr. Trump was referencing the Defense Production Act, which he has invoked to order General Motors to manufacture ventilators.
The comment comes after Jared Moskowitz, the head of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Thursday, accusing 3M of providing the critical health care protective equipment to foreign countries that outbid buyers in the U.S.
“They’re specifically saying, ‘Listen, we are sorry your order got pushed down, but … there are foreign countries who do business differently, and they’re showing up with cash,’ ” Mr. Moskowitz said.
The company posted a statement on Twitter Friday morning, saying it has gone “above and beyond” to produce N95 face masks for the U.S. and it acknowledged the administration formally invoked the Defense Production Act on Thursday to prioritize orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“We look forward to working with FEMA to implement yesterday’s order,” the company said.
The company also said the Trump administration requested 3M stop exporting masks to Canada and Latin America.
“There are, however, significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a critical supplier of respirators. In addition, ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done,” the company said in its statement.
3M’s CEO Mike Roman joined CNBC Friday morning to respond to the Trump administration’s move, noting it already produces 35 million respirators a month in the U.S. and is working to produce more.
“We have great support from suppliers — and governments as well — to make sure we get this as fast as possible,” Mr. Roman said. “We will double our production in the U.S. by the end of the year.”
Rep. Eliot L. Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Friday for the White House to restrict the export of personal protective equipment.
The New York Democrat wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the administration’s coronavirus task force, saying the Export Control Reform Act and International Emergency Economic Powers Act gives the White House the authority to restrict the export of critical medical supplies.