3M mask deal achieved by emphasizing interdependence of Canada, U.S.: Freeland
OTTAWA -- Canadian officials convinced the U.S. administration to back off on blocking shipments of medical face masks to Canada by emphasizing the interdependence of the two countries, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday.
"We achieved that result by making the case to our American friends and neighbours that when it comes to medical equipment and medical services the relationship between Canada and the United States is one of interdependence," Freeland said during a press conference.
U.S. President Donald Trump's administration had asked Minnesota-based 3M to prioritize the American demand for masks — despite existing orders from countries including Canada.
The company and Canadian officials pushed back on the request and, on Monday evening, 3M sent out a release confirming that a deal was brokered between the company and the U.S. administration to "continue sending U.S.-produced respirators to Canada and Latin America, where 3M is the primary source of supply."
Freeland said the argument about the interwoven nature of the Canadian and American medical supply chains was the one that got through and ultimately changed minds at the White House.
"I think it's good news for Canadians and for Americans that that argument resonated with our partners and we're just going to keep going in that vein."
Canadian officials had been vocal in recent days about the ways the U.S. would be hurt if its administration were to continue the push to shore up its supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) at Canada’s expense.
"We are receiving essential supplies from the United States but the United States also receives essential supplies and products and indeed health-care professionals from Canada every single day," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said from the steps of Rideau Cottage on Friday.
"I think of the thousands of nurses, for example, who cross the bridge in Windsor to work in the Detroit medical system every single day. These are things that Americans rely on. It would be a mistake to create blockages or reduce the amount of back and forth trade of essential goods and services including medical goods across our border."
When Ontario Premier Doug Ford got wind of the fact that the U.S. was planning to withhold these sorts of supplies on Friday, he also had some choice words for the administration.
"I am just so, so disappointed right now. We have a great relationship with the U.S. and then all of sudden, they pull these shenanigans. Unacceptable," Ford said.
"When the cards are down you see who your friends are, and I think it’s very clear over the last couple days who our friends are."
On Monday, as a shipment of N95 masks bound for Ontario was being held up at the U.S.-Canada border, the Canadian administration continued its push to convince the U.S. administration that it would not be in their best interests to disrupt the medical supply chain between the two countries. Later that day, 3M said in a press release that the company and the U.S. administration had "worked together to ensure that this plan does not create further humanitarian implications for countries currently fighting the COVID-19 outbreak."
Freeland said on Tuesday that this is the result of Canada's messaging about the interdependence of the two countries.
"It is a reciprocal and balanced relationship and…both countries do best when we work together. And that's why we were able to achieve a win-win outcome. That will be the argument that we continue to make and advance in our relationship with the United States in these truly difficult and complicated times," Freeland said.
Still, the global marketplace for personal protective equipment remains extremely competitive, with countries racing one another to access the limited supply of masks and other essential equipment for frontline health-care workers.
"We are working I would say 24 hours, around the clock, trying to procure equipment in a global situation where equipment is extremely tight," Health Minsiter Patty Hajdu said.
"Our government has the money, we have the will, we have the workforce, and everybody's focus is firmly on getting PPE."
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said on Tuesday that the government has secured more than 230 million surgical masks and has ordered more than 75 million N95 masks.