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In China, Senators Hassan and Coons Meet with Government Officials to Discuss How to Strengthen Efforts to Combat Fentanyl Trafficking that Contributes to Opioid Crisis in the U.S.

BEIJING, CHINA – Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Finance Committees, and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Thursday met with the Vice Chairman of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, Liu Yuejin. The Senators stressed the importance of strengthening efforts to combat fentanyl trafficking from China that contributes to the devastating opioid crisis in the United States. China’s National Narcotics Control Commission is similar to the Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States.

China is a major source of illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in the United States. Fentanyl – as well as the precursor chemicals used to manufacture fentanyl – are often shipped either directly from China to the United States or from China to criminal organizations in Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean who then smuggle the drugs into the United States. In December 2018, following talks between President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit, China announced that it would schedule fentanyl as a class so that all variants of fentanyl would be treated as controlled substances. Earlier this month, China formalized this announcement.  

During the meeting, the Senators emphasized that China’s action to schedule all fentanyl-related drugs as controlled substances will only help if appropriate resources are devoted to enforcement. The Senators were joined at the meeting by officials from the DEA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Cutting off the flow of illicit fentanyl is critically important to turning the tide of the opioid crisis in New Hampshire and across the country,” Senator Hassan said. “We greatly appreciate China’s recent announcement that it will schedule all fentanyl analogues as controlled substances, but as I told Vice Chairman Liu, this step will only make a real difference if the Chinese government devotes sufficient attention and resources to enforcement. We must also work with China to address the supply of precursor chemicals that originate in China and are used to manufacture fentanyl in the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere. I also raised the importance of cracking down on the shipment of fentanyl from China specifically through the U.S. Postal Service. Last Congress, I joined a number of my colleagues from both parties in introducing the bipartisan STOP Act, which President Trump has since signed into law, and in order for this legislation to be effective, we need China to ensure that we receive complete data on packages being shipped to the United States. I will continue working with members of both parties and our dedicated law enforcement officers to help cut off the supply of fentanyl and save lives.”

“Cutting off the illegal flow of fentanyl to the United States it is a critical part of dealing with the opioid crisis in the United States. In Delaware alone, 61 percent of deaths related to drug overdoses involved fentanyl,”  Senator Coons said. “I appreciate the Chinese government’s commitment to classify fentanyl as a controlled substance. It is a significant first step, and I look forward to seeing our two governments work further together to resolve this challenge.”

In October 2018, Senator Hassan attended the White House signing ceremony for the bipartisan opioid package, which included the STOP Act that she cosponsored to help stop the shipment of fentanyl from places like China into the United States through the U.S. Postal Service. Earlier in 2018, Senator Hassan also attended the White House signing ceremony for the bipartisan INTERDICT Act, which she cosponsored to help ensure that U.S. Customs and Border Protection have the tools to help detect and intercept fentanyl being smuggled into the United States – much of which originated in China.

Senator Coons introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), the DEA Clearinghouse Act, to help prevent drug diversion in real time. Currently, the DEA is the only law enforcement entity that can see data about prescription drug orders, but they have no way of tracking this information instantaneously, allowing disproportionate prescription opioid shipments to be made to certain pharmacies across the country. The DEA Clearinghouse Act eliminates this blind spot exploited by bad actors, guards against prescription drug diversion, and protects the integrity of the supply chain by requiring DEA to establish a national, real-time clearinghouse for all orders of controlled substances to identify suspicious orders and notify suppliers before the orders are distributed throughout a community.