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Trudeau cites U.S. as culprit in PPE problems, insists deliveries will happen

Shipments being delayed, redirected as result of Trump order

April 6, 2020
The Canadian Press

Deliveries of critical COVID-19 supplies to Canada are having issues crossing the U.S. border. (ehrlif/Adobe Stock)

OTTAWA — Canada has been having problems for weeks with incomplete or non-existent deliveries of critical supplies for its fight against COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Monday — and he’s singling out the United States in particular.

Shipments coming into Canada from all over the world have been held up, stopped or depleted, but those emanating from the U.S. have been especially problematic, the prime minister said during his daily briefing outside the front door of his residence at Rideau Cottage.

“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.”

The comments followed Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s interview with Citytv, in which he revealed that a shipment of masks destined for the province had instead been redirected at the Canada-U.S. border.

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 domestic orders co-ordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The White House insisted late Friday 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 asked that it stop sending masks to export markets in Canada and Latin America.

“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 its chief executive, Mike Roman, for its “very, very responsible” position in standing up to demands from the White House that it stop exporting its coveted N95 respirator masks to the Canadian and Latin American markets.

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.

Medical supply buying a ‘Wild West’

“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.”

Trump has invoked the DPA, a Korean War-era U.S. law that provides the power to redirect U.S. manufacturing capacity in times of national crisis, to compel American producers of masks, gowns, gloves and ventilators to increase their production and prioritize orders for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

3M, one of the country’s largest producers of N95 respirators, said in a statement Friday it had been told by the White House to stop exporting to Canada and Latin America — a charge the White House has denied.

Late Friday, the White House issued a statement that suggested the purpose of its order was to target what it called “wartime profiteers” — “unscrupulous brokers, distributors and other intermediaries operating in secondary markets.”

Such parties could 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,” the statement said.

“Nothing in this order,” it continues, “will interfere with the ability of PPE manufacturers to export when doing so is consistent with United States policy and in the national interest of the United States.”

Trudeau said Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne had a conversation earlier in the day with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and noted that lower-level talks between the two countries have been ongoing, including with Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S.

He called those conversations “productive” and said the U.S. administration understands that trade with Canada is a two-way street that includes the raw materials that American manufacturers need to produce gowns and masks.