A 3M mask which health care workers are in dire need of is shown in Mississauga, Ont., on Friday, April 3, 2020. Health officials and the government has asks that people stay inside to help curb the spread of the coronavirus also known as COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A 3M mask which health care workers are in dire need of is shown in Mississauga, Ont., on Friday, April 3, 2020. Health officials and the government has asks that people stay inside to help curb the spread of the coronavirus also known as COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

N95 masks on the way for Canada after 3M reaches deal with White House

The Trump White House had ordered 3M to stop shipping masks to Canada

One of America’s largest manufacturers of medical face masks rode to Canada’s rescue Monday, forging an agreement with the White House that allows it to provide millions of its precious N95 respirators to the U.S. market without sacrificing supply bound for north of the border.

Minnesota-based 3M, which has been at the centre of a clash with President Donald Trump and his administration over the company’s reluctance to abide by orders to prioritize American demand for the masks, confirmed plans to continue to fill orders in Canada and Latin America.

3M and the U.S. government “worked together to ensure that this plan does not create further humanitarian implications for countries currently fighting the COVID-19 outbreak,” the company said in a statement that emerged on the heels of Trump’s latest marathon briefing at the White House.

“The plan will also enable 3M to continue sending U.S.-produced respirators to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is the primary source of supply.”

During his briefing, Trump declared that his spat with the company was at an end and sang the praises of Mike Roman, the company’s chief executive, as he announced that 3M would be producing 166.5 million masks for overtaxed and under-supplied health care professionals across the U.S.

He didn’t mention, however, that those N95 masks would be coming from the company’s manufacturing facilities in China, which is how 3M said it will meet at least some of the ever-increasing American demand while still filling orders both north and south of the U.S.

“We share the same goals of providing much-needed respirators to Americans across the country and combating criminals who seek to take advantage of the current crisis,” Roman said in a statement.

“These imports will supplement the 35 million N95 respirators we currently produce per month in the United States.”

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called out the U.S. by name, complaining that Canada had been having problems for weeks with incomplete or non-existent deliveries of critical COVID-19 countermeasures — particularly respirators, which are the subject of skyrocketing demand around the world.

“We have recognized over the past weeks a number of situations in which shipments coming from different countries around the world have been delayed, (or) haven’t arrived with as many products as we were hoping to see,” Trudeau said.

“This continues to be an ongoing problem — specifically with the United States. We are working with them to ensure the orders Canada has placed get delivered. We expect those shipments to come.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford complained Monday about a shipment of Ontario-bound masks being held up at the Canada-U.S. border over the weekend, a circumstance he attributed directly to Trump’s decision to order American producers to prioritize the domestic market.

“We’re putting pressure on the U.S. from all sides. It’s absolutely critical that we get an exemption from this presidential order,” said Ford, who appeared stricken as he warned that the province’s stockpile of supplies would run out in a matter of days.

“It’s certain items that the whole world is trying to get their hands on right now, and I’m doing the same thing,” he said. “I’ll be on this like a dog on a bone.”

Ford initially said that a shipment of three million masks was turned around at the border, and that after a conversation with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, he’d been able to secure 500,000. But Ontario government officials later said the premier was mistaken — that the delayed shipment had only been 500,000 masks in the first place.

Regardless of the numbers, Ford said he wants to lay eyes on the goods before declaring his efforts successful.

“I go back to trust, but verify,” he said, noting that Lighthizer gave him a “glimmer of hope” that the U.S. would be more co-operative in future. “I’ve heard in the past, ‘It’s on its way, it’s on its way,’ (but) it wasn’t on its way.”

The Trump White House has invoked the Defense Production Act to compel U.S. manufacturers of the equipment, such as 3M and Honeywell, to prioritize orders being co-ordinated by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The White House insisted late last week those orders wouldn’t interfere with exports that are in the national interests of the United States — a late-day caveat that came after 3M expressly disclosed that the administration had asked that it stop exporting N95 masks.

But reports from around the world suggest the U.S. is using its unmatched buying power and international clout to muscle out smaller buyers. Germany, France and Brazil have all complained about having orders resold out from under them — sometimes right on the airport tarmac after a last-minute exchange of cash.

“We feel we are being hurt,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. She said Canada continues to drive home the point that given the interconnected nature of supply chains between Canada and the U.S., ”a win-win outcome, where both parties continue to help each other, is the very best outcome.

“We look forward to a definitive resolution to this situation.”

Freeland also singled out 3M and Roman for their “very, very responsible” position in standing up to the White House. As an international supplier of one of the most important pieces of personal protective equipment, 3M is in a “very special place” right now as it seeks to balance domestic demands with global humanitarian responsibilities, she noted.

“It is really a Wild West when it comes to buying medical supplies right now,” Freeland said. ”This is a global pandemic, and every country in the world is doing its best in a truly fierce competition to get medical equipment.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2020.

— Follow James McCarten on Twitter @CdnPressStyle

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The old home at 785 Island Rd. is coming down as the developer was unable to find a feasible business case to save it. (Black Press Media File Photo)
With no takers to move old Oak Bay home, teardown begins

‘We tried a last hurrah,’ developer says

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes delivers the inaugural address at council’s swearing-in ceremony in November 2018. The ceremony included blessings from representatives of two Christian churches. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes delivers the inaugural address at council’s swearing-in ceremony in November, 2018. The ceremony included blessings from representatives of two Christian churches – a fact highlighted in a report released by the BC Humanist Associaton on Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Christian-based prayer at inaugural Vancouver Island council meetings violates court ruling

Blessings violate Supreme Court decision that prayer in council is discriminatory

Bystanders attend to a cyclist who is knocked to the pavement of Oak Bay Avenue. Witnesses say the cyclist was knocked off their bike in a dooring incident on Oak Bay Avenue at Fell Street at around 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday. 
(Daniel Opden Dries Photo)
UPDATED: VicPD tickets driver for ‘dooring’ cyclist on Oak Bay Avenue

Incident occurred at Oak Bay Avenue and Fell Street

The BCCDC has added WestJet flight 3349 on Nov. 23 to its flight exposure list. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
New COVID-19 exposure on WestJet flight from Edmonton to Victoria

The BCCDC has added WestJet flight 3349 on Nov. 23 to its flight exposure list

Karl Ablack, chair of the Port Renfrew Recovery Task Force, says visitors should steer clear of the community after the second wave of COVID has begun to hit across the province. (Black Press Media file photo)
Port Renfrew, Pacheedaht First Nation asks visitors to steer clear of community again

Tight-knit community of 400 has yet to report single case of COVID

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Haven Daley)
POLL: Do you think the current COVID-19 restrictions should continue beyond Dec. 7?

One week into the new restrictions to curtail the spread of the… Continue reading

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Dr. Hurst says it’s best to frame the conversation from a place of care, stressing safety precautions.

Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix.”
Free ‘Hollywood Suite’ movies in December include ‘Keanussance’ titles starring Keanu Reeves

Also featured is the Israeli-made ‘Valley of Tears,’ a 10-part war drama

FILE - This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Pfizer announced Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, more results in its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study that suggest the shots are 95% effective a month after the first dose. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)
VIDEO: B.C. planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the first weeks of 2021

The question of who will get the vaccine first relies on Canada’s ethical framework

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan is set to introduce his NDP government’s new cabinet Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP cabinet built to tackle pandemic, economic recovery, says former premier

Seven former NDP cabinet ministers didn’t seek re-election, creating vacancies in several high-profile portfolios

Most Read