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August 04, 2023

Bipartisan lawmakers call for ‘aggressive’ approach with China to fight fentanyl

Credit: The Hill

A group of bipartisan lawmakers are calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take “aggressive diplomatic action” with China to fight the influx of fentanyl. 

In a letter sent Wednesday, Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) joined 44 other House members in saying they are concerned about the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) “ongoing role,” in the U.S. fentanyl crisis.

“Stopping fentanyl is a life-or-death issue — not a Republican or Democratic one,” Lee said in a statement shared with The Hill. “A bipartisan coalition of 45 Members of Congress just made that clear today.”

Reps. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), David Trone (D-Md.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), and Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) are co-leads on the letter.

“We urge you to drive forward aggressive diplomatic action, as part of a whole-of-government, coordinated effort, to secure an agreement with the PRC that results in a true clamp down on the devastating illicit fentanyl trade,” the letter wrote. 

During Blinken’s high-stakes trip to Beijing in June, the secretary emphasized the need to work with China to stop the flow of synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals into the U.S. that contribute to the fentanyl crisis. Blinken spoke with Chinese leaders on addressing this issue among others through joint working groups. 

In a press briefing Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said the U.S. is continuing to “make progress,” on fentanyl talks with China, but is not yet at the point of establishing the fentanyl working group. 

“The PRC continues to be the main source for the starting chemical materials used to illicit manufacture drugs that have been involved in the deaths of far too many Americans,” the letter wrote. 

It argued these precursor chemicals are sold to Mexican transnational criminal organizations, like cartels, who make illegal fentanyl that ends up in the U.S. The lawmakers push Blinken and the U.S. to “act with urgency,” to save additional American lives from fatal drug overdoses, noting the increase of pills containing fentanyl in recent years. 

The lawmakers said the “coordinated relationships,” between entities in the PRC and cartels in Mexico have established a “sophisticated criminal network that is fueling the drug epidemic in America.” To combat this, lawmakers suggested increased monitoring of transactions and trades that have been markers for trafficking operations in the past, such as the wildlife trafficking of international protected species. 

“Even while tensions remain high in the Pacific, our country cannot afford to look past our national overdose crisis during negotiations with the PRC,” Lee said.  

The lawmakers presented Blinken with four questions regarding the State Department’s actions on the fentanyl crisis and details about his trip to Beijing and the proposed U.S.-China Working Group to Combat Illicit Fentanyl Trafficking.

The letter asked Blinken to provide answers within 60 days.