Canada will not retaliate against the US despite the Trump administration’s announcement it would prevent the export of N95 protective masks to its northern neighbour, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday.
President Donald Trump said he would block exports of the masks to ensure they are available in the US during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need the masks. We don’t want any other people getting it,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Trudeau said Canadian officials were having constructive talks with US authorities and that he planned to speak to Mr Trump in the coming days.
He said he would tell the president both countries were interlinked in ways that would hurt the two nations if supply chains were cut.
“We are not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive, ” Mr Trudeau said.
“We know it is in both our countries interests to cooperate.”
The prime minister said Canada shipped medical gloves and testing kits to the US and said materials for the N95 masks originated in Canada.
Health workers in Canada rely on the masks, while Canadian nurses also crossed the bridge from Windsor, Ontario, to work in the Detroit medical system every day, he said.
Manufacturing giant 3M says there are significant humanitarian implications of ceasing N95 mask supplies to health care workers in Canada and Latin America, where 3M is a critical supplier of respirators.
We are not looking at retaliatory measures or measures that are punitive. We know it is in both our countries interests to cooperateJustin Trudeau
“They can sell to others, but they should be taking care of our country,” Mr Trump said.
“3M has not treated our country well. And if they do, great. And if they don’t, they are going to have a hell of a price to pay.”
The company has argued blocking exports will raise “significant humanitarian implications” abroad and lead other countries to retaliate by withholding much-needed medical supplies from the US.
The dispute between the president and one of his country’s biggest manufacturers started on Thursday, after Mr Trump used his authority under the 1950 Defence Production Act to direct the government to acquire the “appropriate” number of N95 respirators from Minnesota-based 3M and its subsidiaries.
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined measures to help individuals who are most vulnerable to the #COVID19 pandemic, including those experiencing homelessness and women fleeing gender-based violence. Watch his full update: https://t.co/M3lG6kNev1 pic.twitter.com/FYj3M2faua— CanadianPM (@CanadianPM) April 5, 2020
The N95 masks provide more protection against the coronavirus than ordinary surgical masks.
Hospital officials around the world have warned of a dire shortage of masks and other protective gear for health care workers treating infected patients.
3M said it had raised US production of N95 masks from 22 million in January to 35 million in March, with the entire increase being distributed in the US.
It said 10 million N95 masks that it produced in China would be shipped to the US.
The company has traditionally exported some six million masks a month to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is a primary supplier.