Biden and Xi to Announce Deal Cracking Down on Fentanyl Export

Biden and Xi to Announce Deal Cracking Down on Fentanyl Export – Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are poised to reveal a pact where China commits to curbing the production and export of fentanyl, the main contributor to a synthetic drug crisis identified as the primary cause of death among Americans aged 18 to 49. As per Bloomberg, the agreement, currently in the finalization stage between the US and Chinese leaders, entails China targeting chemical companies to disrupt the supply chain of fentanyl and its precursor materials.

In exchange, the Biden administration would remove restrictions on China’s forensic police institute. China had long questioned the rationale behind expecting cooperation in the fight against fentanyl while the US imposed limitations on the institute. Last year, the US recorded 110,000 overdose deaths from synthetic drugs, with over two-thirds attributed to fentanyl, a potent opioid. 

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Fentanyl, up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, is increasingly combined with other illicit substances, often with fatal consequences. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has asserted that much of the fentanyl entering the US originates from China, facilitated by drug cartels in Mexico. Authorities highlight that fentanyl can be produced and distributed more easily than plant-based illicit drugs, which require large-scale enterprises for cultivation and marketing.

The announcement regarding fentanyl is scheduled for Wednesday, coinciding with the meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco. The White House has not responded to requests for comment on the agreement. The upcoming Xi-Biden meeting marks their first encounter in a year, amid tensions related to trade, sanctions, and the status of Taiwan, whether it governs itself or is considered Chinese territory.

While talks between the leaders in November 2022 showed promise, they hit a snag after the US intercepted an alleged Chinese spy balloon in February near the South Carolina coast. The balloon, carrying significant electronic equipment, passed over sensitive military sites, triggering suspicions of intelligence gathering by Beijing. However, in June, military officials clarified that it wasn’t the case, with China maintaining that the balloon’s purpose was weather study.

This incident led to a delay in the visit to China by the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, although he eventually visited Beijing in June this year. A potential new agreement on fentanyl would signify progress in restoring diplomatic relations and highlight the Biden administration’s efforts to tackle the drug issue. The administration has been actively addressing the importation of fentanyl and other illicit substances, but US overdose rates have stubbornly resisted most mitigation efforts. 

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According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths involving the drug more than tripled from 2016 through 2021. Disrupting the supply of fentanyl “precursor” chemicals has been a top priority for the US government. Recently, it took further action by announcing sanctions and issuing indictments against at least 14 Chinese and Canadian firms involved in importing fentanyl, with the majority of those facing charges situated in China.

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In July, the US established a coalition to address the synthetic drug threat, encompassing fentanyl. Initially, China declined participation in a virtual launch meeting for the coalition. Despite this, US officials made multiple visits to China over the summer. The expectation was that such engagement would lead to China cracking down on individuals and businesses involved in supplying chemicals for fentanyl production to drug cartels.

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