Trump Invokes Defense Production Act to Ban Export of N95 Masks, Other Critical Supplies

April 3, 2020 Updated: April 4, 2020

President Donald Trump on Friday invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to stop U.S. companies from exporting N95 respirators and other critical personal protective equipment and medical supplies, to ensure that American hospitals and health care facilities are equipped to weather the CCP virus pandemic.

Trump said in a statement that his order “is another step in our ongoing fight to prevent hoarding, price gouging, and profiteering by preventing the harmful export of critically needed PPE [personal protective equipment].”

“The ability of wartime profiteers to purchase domestic supplies of scarce and critical materials, hoard them while they engage in profiteering and speculation, and then export them can generate foreign demand, and lead to price gouging. This conduct denies our country and our people the materials they need to win the war against the virus,” the president wrote.

“Wartime profiteers may include a large army of speculators and warehouse operators operating in the dark corners of our markets,” he added. “They may also include some well-established PPE distributors with the ability to unscrupulously divert PPE inventories from domestic customers, such as hospitals and State governments, to foreign purchasers willing to pay significant premiums.”

At a White House briefing, Trump said that acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to prevent the export of the critical supplies.

“We need these items immediately for domestic use. We have to have them,” Trump said.

The Defense Production Act, passed in 1950, grants the president the power to expand industrial production of crucial materials or products for national security and other reasons.

The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, infected over 275,500 and killed 7,087 in the United States by April 3, according to data on confirmed cases.

Trump noted that his administration had already moved to prevent the price gouging and hoarding of critical supplies amid the CCP virus pandemic.

“We have already leveraged the DPA to stop the hoarding and price gouging of crucial supplies,” the president said.

“Under that authority this week the Department of Health and Human Services, working with the Department of Justice took custody of nearly 200,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks, 600,000 gloves, as well as bottles—many, many, many bottles—and disinfectant sprays that were being hoarded,” he said. Adding that all the items are being sent to health care workers.

Trump said the federal government is providing about 8.1 million N95 respirators, 200,000 of which have been given to New York City.

Trump on March 27 authorized the use of the DPA to compel General Motors to move faster on producing ventilators.

On Thursday, he again authorized the use of the DPA for more companies, to further ramp up ventilator production in the United States.

Separately, the president on Thursday singled out 3M in a memorandum ordering the Secretary of Homeland Security to use “all authority available under the Act to acquire, from any appropriate subsidiary or affiliate of 3M Company, the number of N95 respirators that the Administrator determines to be appropriate.”

At a White House briefing on the CCP virus pandemic earlier on Thursday, Trump announced he had signed a DPA order for 3M to produce face masks. “Hopefully they’ll be able to do what they are supposed to do,” he said.

Later that day, Trump wrote on Twitter saying, “We hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their masks,” in an apparent reference to reports that 3M had been exporting many of its masks to other countries instead of reserving them for domestic use.

“P Act. all the way,” Trump continued, with P apparently referring to the Defense Production Act. “Big surprise to many in government as to what they were doing—will have a big price to pay!”

Following the announcement of the DPA order, 3M said in a statement on Friday it would work closely with FEMA to increase the production of respirators. However, it warned of the “humanitarian implications” of limiting supply to other countries.

Tom Ozimek and Reuters contributed to this report.

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