President Trump appointed trade adviser Peter Navarro on Friday to become coordinator of national defense policy production, signaling a new phase in the fight against the coronavirus as the president for the first time ordered a private company, General Motors, to produce ventilators.
“My administration is marshaling the full power of the federal government,” Mr. Trump said. “I know he’s going to do a fantastic job.”
Mr. Trump ordered GM to make ventilators under the Defense Production Act, hours after slamming the company for not moving quickly enough to manufacture the devices.
The order came hours after GM said it would build ventilators with Ventec Life Systems at a plant in Indiana.
Mr. Navarro, who has been working on emergency supply production for weeks, said most companies are cooperating voluntarily but “we did have a problem with GM and Ventec.”
“We ran into road blocks with GM,” he said. “We cannot afford to lose a single day, particularly over the next 30 to 60 days. We need industrial mobilization to make adequate ventilators, particularly in the short run.”
Mr. Trump said the dispute with GM “got to be a debate over cost,” and he took a dim view of the company because it closed a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, last year.
“I wasn’t too thrilled. Price became a big object,” the president said. “But Peter Navarro’s going to handle that. We didn’t want to play games with them.”