Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves

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President Trump announced Friday evening that he is invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to prevent the export of surgical masks and gloves outside of the country. 

The White House said the order is intended to prevent “war profiteers” from hoarding supplies to generate foreign demand and then exporting the goods, and that it will not interfere with the ability of manufacturers to export personal protection equipment (PPE) “when doing so is consistent with United States policy.”

“Today’s order is another step in our ongoing fight to prevent hoarding, price gouging, and profiteering by preventing the harmful export of critically needed PPE,” the White House said in a statement. “It will help ensure that needed PPE is kept in our country and gets to where it is needed to defeat the virus.”

The White House, which has faced criticism over its early handling of the coronavirus outbreak and the availability of crucial equipment, has since put a premium on stocking up on PPE to make available to states and hospitals as nearly 280,000 cases are confirmed in the U.S. 

The efforts to curtail exports of PPE have faced pushback from both foreign countries and domestic companies, which say the measures could hinder crucial international cooperation. 

“These are things that Americans rely on, and it would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services, including medical goods, across our border,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday, noting that thousands of nurses cross the American-Canadian border each day to work in Detroit hospitals. 

3M, a manufacturer of face masks and respirators, has said it will agree with past orders for it to boost its production and cut exports, but also warned that foreign countries could retaliate, resulting in a net decrease in crucial products available to Americans.

Trump has dismissed those concerns, asserting that the country is heavily supplied.

“We really are very well supplied,” he said Friday. “But, you know, you’re talking about a massive — you’re talking about a massive number.”

The president clarified during his press briefing Friday that he will not prevent the sale of any PPE to other countries with “long-term orders,” particularly if they are dealing with significant coronavirus outbreaks. 

“If they have long-term orders and they’re in there and they want to get certain things, I’ve let them go out, in certain instances, because I think it’s only fair,” he told reporters. “They have problems that are proportionately or relatively bigger than our problems.”

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Defense Production Act Donald Trump Justin Trudeau Personal protective equipment

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