Industrial conglomerate 3M (NYSE:MMM) and the Trump administration have settled a dispute over the supply of N95 masks in the United States, with the company announcing it will supplement its domestic production by importing respirator masks manufactured at its overseas facilities. On April 2, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) in his push to have 3M keep its domestically produced masks in the U.S.
In a response to the DPA invocation, 3M criticized the attempt to prevent exports, pointing out that it is a critical supplier of the respirators to Canada and Latin America, and that preventing it from shipping protective gear to those regions would have "significant humanitarian implications."
With the new agreement, 3M will import 166.5 million N95 respirators into the U.S. over the next three months, supplementing its domestic production of 35 million per month. 3M said it worked with the administration to ensure that the plan "does not create further humanitarian implications for countries currently fighting the COVID-19 outbreak."
Since the start of the pandemic, 3M has been working to increase its N95 respirator production capacity. The company expects to be producing the masks globally at a rate of 200 million per month within the next 12 months. In January, it produced 50 million globally. It now expects to be able to produce 50 million per month in the United States alone by June.
The company said it will begin importing the 166.5 million masks in April, most of them from its facility in China. This will enable it to continue supplying Canada and Latin America from its U.S. production.