U.S.-manufactured masks, scrubs, ventilators, respirators, face shields, and all other protective gear will all be kept in America for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, FEMA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection said on Wednesday. 3M’s abortive attempt to sell protective gear abroad prompted the move. The federal government has the authority for the action under the Defense Production Act.
After federal review and if a product is deemed surplus to the national need, some firms may still be able to export the equipment out of the U.S.
Fox News reports, “Personal protective equipment (PPE) —which is in short supply in hospitals across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic— will be prevented from leaving the United States, the federal government said Wednesday.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it will prevent critical supplies such as respirators, surgical masks and surgical gloves from leaving the country while the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determines whether to purchase the equipment, allow it to be exported or keep it for use in the U.S.
“‘FEMA and CBP are working together to prevent domestic brokers, distributors, and other intermediaries from diverting these critical medical resources overseas,’ both agencies said in a joint statement.”
White House adviser Peter Navarro accused 3M of “whining” and “acting like a sovereign nation” in response to presidential criticism. This FEMA and CBP gambit is a shot across the bow to other producers and manufacturers to convince them to not even think about exporting vital PPE and other materials without federal approval. 3M got off with mere words of chastisement in public and likely in private. The next malefactor may not be so lucky.
Yes, this much federal control of a private business seems anathema to conservatives and all who believe in a free market. But these are not normal times and, as in a military conflict, many rules are suspended until the job is done. That will hopefully be sooner rather than later.