U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday issued a presidential memorandum under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to prevent the export of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus outbreak.
According to the memorandum, "domestic use, as appropriate" is prioritized in the allocation of items including N95 and other respirators, surgical masks and gloves that are designated "scarce or threatened materials."
While the Secretary of Homeland Security, "through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services," is authorized to allocate the items, the duty of designation falls upon the Secretary of Health and Human Services, according to the memorandum.
The White House said in a statement that the order is aimed at preventing "wartime profiteers" from purchasing domestic supplies and hoarding them to "generate foreign demand," which it said will "lead to price gouging."
"Today's order is another step in our ongoing fight to prevent hoarding, price gouging, and profiteering by preventing the harmful export of critically needed PPE," the statement said, adding, however, that it will not "interfere with the ability of PPE manufacturers to export when doing so is consistent with United States policy and in the national interest of the United States."
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.