Make Fentanyl Part of China Trade Agreement, Senator Says

By Kelly Burch 05/17/18

“I am demanding negotiators impose real pressure on China to stop the export of fentanyl."

Senator Chuck Schumer
Photo via YouTube

Economic leaders from the United States and China are meeting in Washington this week to discuss a trade deal between the two countries, and a prominent senator is calling for illicit fentanyl manufacturing to be part of the conversation. 

“Negotiators must not leave the table without addressing the export of fentanyl,” Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said, according to the New York Post. “This issue must be a major priority because too many lives have been lost and too many others are at stake, especially here in New York.”

In the Empire State, fentanyl killed more than 3,000 people in 2016, an increase of nearly one-third in just a year. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are now involved in more overdose deaths than prescription pills. Much of the fentanyl that is consumed in the United States is produced in China, and Schumer said that it’s time that Chinese authorities began taking responsibility for this. 

“I am demanding negotiators impose real pressure on China to stop the export of fentanyl. As the scourge spreads and addiction grows, China’s authorities continue to turn a blind eye,” he said.

Schumer pointed out that fentanyl production is an economic issue. Treating overdoses is costly, with over $500 billion spent on confronting opioid addiction in 2015. 

In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration said that China was primarily responsible for the production of fentanyl that was beginning to flood into the United States.

However, Chinese authorities rejected this characterization, saying that U.S. officials “lack the support of sufficient numbers of actual, confirmed cases” to show that China was the main supplier of synthetic opioids. 

In 2017, U.S. authorities indicted two Chinese men on charges of manufacturing tons of fentanyl, which contributed to at least four deaths. Despite the indictment, authorities said that it was unlikely that the men would be brought to the United States to face charges. 

However, earlier this year Chinese officials said that they would work with Americans to stop shipments of fentanyl being sent to the U.S. from Chinese factories. Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that "anti-drug coordination is one of the highlights of China-U.S. law enforcement cooperation," and that the country was "ready to work with the U.S. to enhance its coordination in this field.”

At the time, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said that Chinese cooperation was essential. 

"The vast majority of illegal fentanyl is purchased online from labs in China and then shipped to the United States through the mail," he said. "The federal government can, and must, act to shore up our defenses against this deadly drug and save lives."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.