President Donald Trump attacked 3M over concerns with supplies of protective face masks as his administration issued an order under the Defense Production Act to speed production of ventilators and respirators for coronavirus patients.
3M responded hours later with a statement, saying early Friday that it has increased production of respirator masks significantly and was already working with the administration to prioritize orders from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The latest actions offer a framework to “expand even further the work we are doing in response to the global pandemic crisis,” 3M said.
The president said at a White House news conference he signed an “element of the act against 3M” that allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to obtain as many N95 respirators as it needs from the company. Trump tweeted Thursday evening that the company would “have a big price to pay” for its handling of the masks, without specifying the problem.
“We’ve been in constant discussions” with the administration, 3M Chief Executive Officer Mike Roman said Friday on CNBC. “The narrative that we aren’t doing everything we can as a company is just not true.”
The company pushed back against what it described as a White House request to stop exporting the products from the U.S. While 3M said it has worked to increase the number of masks imported from its overseas factories, including approval to ship 10 million respirators from China, part of its U.S. production is needed in Canada and Latin America.
There would be “significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers” in neighboring countries, 3M said in the statement. The company has ramped up production to 100 million masks a month, about 35 million of which are produced in the U.S.
The statement continues, in part:
3M fell 1% to $136.51 at 9:32 a.m. in New York.
Trump earlier Thursday signed an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that General Electric Co., Hill-Rom Holdings Inc., Medtronic Plc, ResMed Inc., Royal Philips NV, and Vyaire Medical Inc. obtain needed supplies. The order does not name the suppliers to companies manufacturing ventilators.
Trump said in a statement the order would “more fully ensure that domestic manufacturers can produce ventilators needed to save American lives.”
Philips, a leading maker of ventilators, called Trump’s action a positive development. “We welcome any help to make the supply chain more robust,” said spokesman Steve Klink. “It is not enough if one company scales up, everyone has to scale up.”
The Dutch firm needs more than 650 components for the ventilators it produces in two factories in America, with more than half coming from Europe and Asia and the rest from suppliers in the U.S. Beyond hospital ventilators, Philips is also set to start delivering 10,000 portable ventilators to the U.S. later this year.