US President Donald Trump said Friday he ordered General Motors (GM) to produce ventilators under the Defense Production Act, a wartime law he recently invoked to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Today, I signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize federal contracts for ventilators," Trump said in a statement.
"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.
"GM was wasting time. Today's action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives," added the president.
GM, in a statement cited by CNBC, reiterated that employees with Ventec, GM and their supply base "have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need."
"Our commitment to build Ventec's high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered," the company said. "The partnership between Ventec and GM combines global expertise in manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible. The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative."
Passed by Congress in 1950 as a response to the Korean War, the DPA authorizes the president to direct companies to increase the production of national defense-related items. It also entitles the president to control the distribution of supplies deemed critical.
Trump signed an executive order on March 18 invoking the law, amid the drastically deteriorating situation the country faced in the coronavirus outbreak.
In the United States, which has become the global epicenter of the pandemic, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are nearing 100,000, and death toll has risen past 1,400, according to Johns Hopkins University's latest data tracking country-by-country numbers.