Asked about the controversy over the White House pressuring safety gear manufacturer 3M to step up imports of protective masks from its Chinese factories to the US – often at the expense of other customers, including America’s closest allies – Trump dismissed accusations of “modern piracy.”
“There’s been no act of piracy. It was the opposite.”
“We are very disappointed in 3M… they can sell to others, but they should be taking care of our country,” Trump added in the true spirit of the ‘America First’ policy.
Trump did not clarify exactly what he meant by the ‘opposite of piracy,’ apparently suggesting that there were some perfectly legal grounds for seizing international shipments.
Earlier this week, a delivery of 200,000 masks left a 3M factory in China for the German capital – only to be confiscated en route and diverted to the US, according to Berlin’s Senator for the Interior Andreas Geisel, who shamed the supposed “transatlantic partners” for this “act of modern piracy.”
“We are using the Defense Production Act very powerfully. Sometimes directly, in many cases indirectly, just a threat of it is usually enough,” Trump said, answering a separate question about the pressure on 3M to stop exports and prioritize the order for some 180 million masks from FEMA.
“We need the masks, we don’t want other people getting it… That’s why we are instituting a lot of Defense Production Act. You could call it a retaliation, because that’s what it is, it’s a retaliation. If people do not give us what we need for our people, we are going to be very tough.
The multinational conglomerate 3M – the world’s largest maker of respirator masks – warned the US administration about the dangers of invoking the DPA to limit its exports from American factories to other states and disrupting complex global supply chains.
“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,” 3M said in a statement.
“If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease.”
While Trump is “working hard” with 3M to make sure his order for 180 million N-95 respirators is fulfilled as soon as possible, the United States is suffering a severe medical-grade face-cover shortage. At the same time, Trump noted that some American states that have not yet been hit too hard, are demanding much more supplies than needed, even with authorities distributing millions of masks from federal stockpiles.
The number of Covid-19 cases across the United States exceeded 300,000 on Saturday, with nearly half of them in New York and New Jersey. Over 8,000 people succumbed to the virus and related complications as the outbreak has yet to reach its peak in the US – with Trump warning that “there will be a lot of death” in the coming weeks.