President Donald Trump on Friday invoked the Defense Production Act to ban “unscrupulous actors and profiteers” from exporting critical medical gear used to protect wearers from the coronavirus.
The president unveiled the new order amid a dispute with U.S. manufacturing giant 3M, which had warned the Trump administration that halting its exports of respirator masks could make them even less available in the United States.
“We’re not happy with 3M. We’re not at all happy with 3M. And the people who dealt with it directly are not happy with 3M,” Trump said at a White House press briefing Friday evening.
Under the new order, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf will work with FEMA to “prevent the export of N-95 respirators, surgical masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment,” Trump said.
“We need these items immediately for domestic use, we have to have ’em,” the president added.
The White House released details of the order after the press conference, which in part states, “To ensure that these scarce or threatened PPE materials remain in the United States for use in responding to the spread of COVID-19, it is the policy of the United States to prevent domestic brokers, distributors, and other intermediaries from diverting such material overseas.”
“Nothing in this order will interfere with the ability of PPE manufacturers to export when doing so is consistent with United States policy and in the national interest of the United States,” a statement from Trump said.
Trump had first attacked 3M on Thursday, after approving an order for Wolf to “use any and all authority” to acquire as many respirators from the company or its affiliates as was deemed “appropriate.”