Trump Unveils Deal With 3M To End Mask Production 'Saga'

By Mike LaSusa
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Law360 (April 6, 2020, 10:51 PM EDT) -- President Donald Trump announced Monday the end of a "saga" involving his administration and 3M Co., which had pushed back against White House requests to stop exporting medical grade masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under a deal unveiled at the president's daily coronavirus press briefing, 3M will import 166.5 million masks to the U.S. over the next three months from its facility in China while continuing to send U.S.-produced masks to Canada and Latin America.

"So the 3M saga ends very happily," Trump said. "We're very proud to be dealing now with 3M."

3M CEO Mike Roman echoed the president's comments in a news release Monday.

"Given the reality that demand for respirators outpaces supply, we are working around the clock to further expand our capacity, while prioritizing and redirecting our supplies to serve the most critical areas," Roman said.

The tiff between the White House and 3M flared up Friday, with the St. Paul, Minnesota-based conglomerate condemning the Trump administration's request that the company stop exporting medical grade masks to Canada and Latin America.

3M warned that blocking exports would likely set off similar responses from other governments, which are also grappling with medical supply shortages amid the global COVID-19 health crisis.

Those warnings came one day after Trump signed an order permitting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to use "any and all" authority under the Defense Production Act to acquire however many 3M N95 respirators the department deems necessary to combat the health emergency in the U.S.

Trump also said at Monday's news briefing that he had used the DPA "very powerfully" to send states and cities more than 8,000 ventilators from the national stockpile. The president added that production of the crucial machines is ramping up.

"We're getting more than we ever bargained for," he said. "Manufacturers are really going to town."

Those statements came after Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged Trump Monday to use the full scope of the DPA to help address the pandemic, suggesting the naming of a military "czar" to oversee the production and distribution of medical supplies.

The Senate minority leader said in a call with reporters that Trump's use of the DPA to control the production of medical equipment has been "ad hoc," leading states to bid against each other for crucial supplies and hospital leaders to have to "hunt and peck" for needed equipment.

--Additional reporting by Alyssa Aquino and Daniel Wilson. Editing by Breda Lund.

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