Trudeau issues veiled threat to US over COVID-19 masks

Canada's Prime Minister is confident that our front-line staff, will have the medical equipment they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he's working with the United States to help them understand that trade between the two countries goes both ways.

He says it would be a huge mistake to restrict staff, or products and services from crossing the border in both directions.

His comments come a day after the White House ordered 3M to stop exporting medical-grade face masks to the Canadian market.

But the company, which calls itself a critical supplier of the masks to both markets, says there would be “significant humanitarian implications” to doing so.

It also says such a move would likely prompt retaliatory measures, ultimately resulting in fewer facial respirators being available in the United States.

3M says it has already been turning out as many of the N95 masks as possible for the U.S. market.

The company was singled out for criticism Thursday by President Donald Trump, who has invoked the Defense Production Act to compel 3M to prioritize the American market for its masks.

The act, which was passed in 1950, grants the president the power to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons.

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.

“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 has ramped up production to 100 million masks a month, about 35 million of which are produced in the U.S.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said at a Thursday news conference that the administration has had concerns about whether the company’s production around the world is being delivered to the U.S.