Trump administration has agree to an agreement with US producer 3M to import more than 166 million respirators from China over the next three months and enable 3M to continue exporting US-made respirators.
The deal broke the deadlock which caused Washington to stop nearly three million special masks from being exported to Ontario, raising fears that Canada’s most populous province would run out of supplies for medical staff fighting the corona virus at the end of the week.
Donald Trump, who has criticized 3M over the weekend, had warm words for the company on Tuesday, following the agreement, and its chairman and CEO, Mike Roman, praised the president.
“I want to thank President Trump and the government for their leadership and collaboration,” Roman said written statement. “This import will add to the 35 million N95 respirators we currently produce per month in the United States.”
Under the plan, 3M will import 166.5 million respirators (masks that form mouth and nose covers and offer far greater protection than surgical masks) from its factory in China, over the next three months.
Meanwhile, 3M’s statement said: “The plan will also enable 3M to continue sending US-produced respirators to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is the main source of supply. “
Clashes with 3M and Canada began on Thursday when Donald Trump filed a Defense Production Act in 1950 that gave the government “all or all authority” to stop 3M exporting N95 respirators to Canada and Latin America.
The mask, which filters 95% of particles in the air, is seen as an important tool for frontline health workers in the struggle against Covid-19.
But because of shrinking supplies, countries and local governments locked in a desperate battle to access any available equipment.
At a press conference on Monday, Ontario’s prime minister Doug Ford said 500,000 masks had been cleaned to be released, but nearly three million masks were intercepted by US officials at the 3M South Dakota Facility.
“We know that the US does not allow supplies to cross US borders,” Ford said. “The truth is, our inventory in Ontario is getting lower and the more new cases we get, the more demand for our resources.”
3M initially rejected the president’s executive order, warning in a statement that the move would have “significant humanitarian implications” for countries that need safety equipment.
Over the weekend, Trump strongly criticized the company, warning there would be “a price to pay”.
“We need a mask. We don’t want other people to get it, “Trump said deeply Saturday Briefing to reporters. “That’s why we institutionalized [the] defense production actions. You can call it retribution because it is retaliation: retaliation. If people don’t give us what we need for our people, we will be very resilient. “
When Ontario is struggling to get new equipment, Ford said the province was “desperate” to rely on orders placed through the federal government’s mass purchasing program to bridge its short-term needs until sustainable supplies could be found.
The order from Trump threatened to do serious damage to the close relations between the two countries.
Speaking at his daily press conference on Monday, Justin Trudeau said his government would not implement retaliation, instead relying on diplomacy to end the impasse.
“There is a very productive conversation going on and we hope that the shipment will be delivered,” the prime minister said.
Trudeau said foreign minister François-Philippe Champagne had spoken previously with US foreign minister Mike Pompeo – but refused to provide additional details about the suspended shipments.
A US reading of the call said Pompeo “reiterated the United States’ desire to work with Canada” to ensure Canada has access to essential equipment while also areas hard hit in the US from having equipment supplies.
But Trudeau also warned that Canada’s relations with the United States were a “two-way street” – a reference to hundreds of health workers in southern Ontario who cross into Michigan every day.
In addition to frontline workers, Canada also supplies the main raw materials needed by the company to build specialized equipment, including medical quality fabrics at a pulp mill in British Columbia. The factory, Harmac Pacific, said it had no plans to stop exports to the United States.
Despite the prime minister’s promise of a resolution with his American counterparts, provincial leaders are already looking into the future.
AMD Medicom Inc. based in Quebec recently signed an agreement to produce 50 million surgical masks and N95 for the federal government, according to Globe and Mail. And in Ontario, Ford’s prime minister said he was working with federal officials to speed up the approval process for a new N96 mask developed by the province.
“Never again in the history of Canada if we are ever attached to countries around the world or companies around the world for the safety and welfare of the Canadian people,” Ford said on Friday. “I will not depend on President Trump, I will not depend on the prime minister or president of any country anymore.”
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