President Biden stated that Chinese President Xi Jinping has agreed to crack down on the flow of Chinese-made chemicals used by criminal cartels to manufacture illicit fentanyl. The agreement aims to stem the flow of precursor chemicals and pill presses from China to the Western Hemisphere, particularly Mexico, where cartels finish the synthetic opioid and distribute it in other drugs.
Biden expressed appreciation for President Xi’s commitment to this issue and highlighted that both nations will maintain teams to coordinate on policy and law enforcement to ensure effectiveness. This agreement, formulated during Biden’s meeting with Xi near San Francisco, targets a synthetic opioid responsible for causing tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year.
While China ceased direct shipments of fentanyl to the U.S. in 2019 under pressure from the Trump administration, Chinese companies continue to ship precursor chemicals to Mexico, where cartels complete the product and push it across the border. It is noted that almost all of the finished fentanyl supply comes from Mexico, often in the form of counterfeit pills consumed by addicted individuals or unsuspecting users.
Apart from chemicals, it is emphasized that the pill presses are exclusively supplied from China. However, the extent to which Beijing will adhere to the agreement remains uncertain. Given the adversarial relationship between the two countries, doubts have been raised about China’s willingness to follow through on prior promises.
Notably, fentanyl has inundated the heroin supply, leading to a surge in overdose deaths over the past decade. Its presence in various drugs and counterfeit pills has resulted in fatalities across different demographics, posing a challenge for successive administrations.
The U.S. Congress is currently debating strategies to halt the influx of deadly drugs, with Democrats advocating for enhanced screening at ports of entry and Republicans highlighting lax security at the U.S.-Mexico border as a key issue. Some lawmakers are pushing for stricter criminal penalties for fentanyl traffickers and their chemical analogs.
While former President Trump advocated for the death penalty for fentanyl dealers during his campaign, leading Democrats praised Biden for taking a diplomatic approach, viewing the agreement as beneficial for both nations.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer commended the steps taken by President Biden, emphasizing the significance of China recognizing its role in addressing the crisis.