President Trump named current Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro as the policy coordinator for the Defense Production Act.
“My order establishes that Peter will serve as national Defense Production Act policy coordinator for the federal government,” Trump said. “He’s a tremendous guy and he will do a fantastic job.”
Navarro said the DPA was activated with General Motors to create ventilators because those pieces of equipment are “really the most important thing for patients who become seriously ill. They are literally the lifeline for people.”
“We need industrial mobilization in order to make adequate ventilators,” Navarro said, adding that other companies that build ventilators were “cooperative, patriotic, moving in Trump time, that is to say as soon as possible, but we did have a problem with GM and VENTEC.”
Citing the roadblocks with General Motors, Navarro said, “We cannot afford to lose a single day particularly over the next 30-60 days.”
The announcements comes shortly after Trump announced during the signing ceremony for the CARES Act in the Oval Office that he has invoked the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to prioritize ventilators production.
“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” Trump said in a statement. “GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”
Trump said in the statement that Secretary of Health and Human Services “shall use any and all authority available under the Act to require General Motors Company to accept, perform, and prioritize contracts or orders for the number of ventilators that the secretary determines to be appropriate.”
The Trump administration were in talks with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to announce a joint agreement to produce thousands of desperately needed ventilators, but talks staled amid internal concerns over the timeline and price tag of the agreement.
After Trump invoked the act, GM said in a statement they “have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need” and the joint venture between General Motors and Ventec to help with “manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible.”
Trump last week signed the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era act that grants the president extraordinary powers to force manufacture such as automakers to manufacture medical supplies that are in short supply. The president invoke the act two days later after speaking with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who urged Trump to immediately invoke the act to get more necessarily medical equipment to places like New York, the hardest hit state of confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
Early Friday morning, Trump excoriated General Motors and its CEO, Mary Barra for not moving quickly enough to produce needed ventilators and wanting “top dollar” for the contract.
As usual with “this” General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, “very quickly”. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B. Invoke “P”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020
During the Coronavirus Task Force press briefing Friday evening, Trump bashed General Motors for not being cooperative enough in its pivot to produce ventilators for a medical equipment company.
“We thought we had a deal for 40,000 ventilators and all of a sudden the 40,000 came down to 6,000 and then they talked about a higher price than we were discussing so I didn’t like it,” Trump said. “So we did activate [the Defense Production Act] with respect to General Motors and hopefully maybe we won’t even need the full activation.”
He told reporters that cost became a “problem” in talks between officials and the companies.
“Peter Navarro is going to handle that and Peter will do a very good job,” the president said. “They weren’t talking the right way at the beginning, and that’s just not right to the country. Maybe they’ll change their tune, but we didn’t want to play games with them.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state has the highest number of cases in the country and urged Trump to invoke the law for weeks as they have struggled to get their hands on ventilators praised the decision to use the act in a tweet on Friday.
“We desperately needed the Defense Production Act invoked to ensure the production of life-saving ventilators. We are relieved that just happened,” he said “Lives depend on it.”