This article describes efforts by the Trump administration to use the Defense Production Act to compel N95 respirator manufacturer 3M to increase importation to the US of respirators the company manufacturers overseas and allegedly to stop exporting US-made respirators to Canada and Latin American countries.
The Defense Production Act (DPA) authorizes the president to take various actions to control industrial production to ensure the availability of materials for national defense. Among other powers, the DPA authorizes the president to require a business to accept and prioritize federal contracts for materials deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense (50 U.S.C. § 4511). A presidential memorandum issued on April 2, 2020, makes the required findings to invoke the DPA and delegates authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to use the DPA to acquire N95 respirators from 3M.
The memorandum does not explicitly mention exports, and administration officials are quoted in the article as denying that 3M has been told to stop exports. As described in the article, using the DPA to prevent exports of necessary PPE or other supplies could result in retaliatory efforts by other national governments, potentially leading to US shortages of critical resources. 3M argues that this could result in a net loss of respirators available to the US.
According to the article, 3M has increased respirator imports to the US, including securing approval from China to export 10 million N95 respirators the manufactured there to the US. The article also notes complaints that some shipments of PPE have been diverted to FEMA because the federal agency is outbidding state and local governments who have contracted to procure them.