#Trump invokes defence powers to order GM to produce ventilators that can save many lives.

Trump invokes defence powers to order GM to produce ventilators.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Donald Trump issued a federal order on Friday (March 27) to force auto giant General Motors to manufacture ventilators as supplies of the crucial hospital equipment grow short and coronavirus infections mount across the country.

Mr Trump invoked the rarely-used Defence Production Act (DPA) to order GM to speed up its commitment to make ventilators in one of its auto plants after delays in negotiations.

The Act, designed for use in wartime to commandeer private business to manufacture for defence needs, will allow the White House to require that GM "accept, perform, and prioritise federal contracts for ventilators," Mr Trump said in a statement.

Negotiations had been "productive," he said, "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."

"GM was wasting time. Today's action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives."

At a later White House press conference, he added that the decision "should demonstrate clearly that we will not hesitate to use the full authority of the federal government to combat this crisis". He also announced that Mr Peter Navarro, a top White House advisor formerly at the forefront of Washington's trade dispute with China, will now coordinate further initiatives under the DPA.

Earlier in the day, Mr Trump demanded in a tweet that both GM and rival Ford move quickly on fabricating ventilators, essential to help seriously ill coronavirus patients breathe.

GM quickly answered back that it had a deal with medical equipment maker Ventec Life Systems to build the critical care equipment in its Kokomo, Indiana, auto plant, and would likely be able to begin shipping next month.

But the White House was apparently dissatisfied with the company's response and moved to invoke the DPA about four hours later.

GM said in a statement after Mr Trump's announcement that it was already taking action.

"Ventec, GM and our supply base have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need," the company said.