President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, April 6, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, April 6, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

U.S. emerging as common denominator in world’s struggle to secure medical gear

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’s an ‘ongoing problem’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called out the United States by name Monday as a global scramble for increasingly scarce COVID-19 countermeasures continued to worsen and Canada’s hard-hit southern neighbour emerged as one of the principal culprits.

Canada has been having problems for weeks with incomplete or non-existent deliveries of critical supplies, Trudeau said — particularly N95 respirators, the medical-grade fabric face masks that are considered the most effective way for health professionals to protect themselves from infection.

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.”

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 President Donald 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 3 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.

READ MORE: As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

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.

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 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.

“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. The company has not responded to media requests, although it did issue a statement Sunday debunking a report about a shipment from China to Berlin being diverted by the U.S.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne discussed the situation Monday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “They addressed the critical need to ensure the flow of essential goods and to keep supply chains intact during this ongoing crisis, especially for medical supplies and personal protective equipment,” the government said in a readout of the call.

The State Department readout read a little differently: “Pompeo reiterated the United States’ desire to work with Canada to ensure the viability of international supply chains for crucial medical supplies and personnel, while also meeting the needs of regions with the most severe outbreaks.”

READ MORE: Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start, Tam says

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusDonald TrumpUSA

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

Just Posted

Trent (left) and Treyden (right) are two of the students in the Mountain Bike Academy getting underway in February, taught by Salmon Arm Secondary’s Chris Stromgren (middle). (School District 83 photo)
Salmon Arm Secondary Mountain Bike Academy ready to roll

Course will help develop students’ riding and leadership skills

The Okanagan Regional Library is holding a pair of online contests for its young readers. (File photo)
Okanagan Regional Library challenges young readers

Pair of contests online aimed at kids aged up to 18

Vernon Winter Carnival Cop John Fawcett (left) and Carnival director Paul Cousins are at Vernon’s Real Canadian Superstore on Anderson Way until 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, selling raffle tickets for a 2019 Polaris Snowmobile plus $1,000 worth of gear from BDM Motorsports. Tickets are $20. Only 5,000 tickets are being sold. The draw will be made Wednesday, Feb. 17. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon Winter Carnival prize sled on display

Grand prize in Carnival raffle draw is 2019 Polaris snowmobile and $1,000 in gear; tickets $20

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

A Dodge Ram pickup similar to this one was involved in a hit-and-run in Lake Country on Saturday, Jan. 16. (Crime Stoppers photo)
Stolen truck involved in Okanagan hit-and-run

Incident happened on Highway 97 in Lake Country just before 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Kelowna Fire Department. (FILE)
Early morning downtown Kelowna dumpster fire deemed suspicious

RCMP and the Kelowna Fire Department will conduct investigations into the cause of the blaze

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Most Read