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Senator Hassan Leads Hearing on Fentanyl Trafficking from China and Mexico to the U.S.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chair of the Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight Subcommittee, led a bipartisan U.S. Senate hearing yesterday focused on how the U.S. government can continue pushing China and Mexico to stop fentanyl trafficking stemming from their countries, as well as how to strengthen international law enforcement cooperation. The hearing built on Senator Hassan’s bipartisan Congressional Delegation trips to Mexico and China.

“People in every corner of the country – including my home state of New Hampshire – have had their families and communities destroyed by the fentanyl crisis,” said Senator Hassan. “We must do everything that we can to dismantle and defeat the cartels. We cannot relent in these efforts. We need to build a safer future for our country and our children.”

The hearing featured Dr. Vanda Felbab-Brown, Director, Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors, The Brookings Institution; Celina Realuyo, Professor of Practice, William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, National Defense University; and Christopher Urben, Managing Partner, Nardello & Co.

You can watch Senator Hassan’s opening statement here and you can watch the full hearing here.

“The vast majority of fentanyl, and now other powerful synthetic opioids, aren’t being produced in the United States; these drugs come from international drug cartels,” said Senator Hassan. “We know that these cartels have international supply chains. Mexican drug cartels, for instance, order precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl or other synthetic opioids from chemical manufacturers in China. Then the cartels synthesize the opioids in Mexico and smuggle the drugs across the southwest border. U.S. and international authorities must work together to dismantle these transnational criminal organizations and cut off their supplies, their money, and illegal weapons…Today’s hearing is an opportunity to look at the specific steps that Congress needs to take to disrupt the fentanyl supply chain and dismantle the deadly and violent criminal organizations that dominate this trade.”

Senator Hassan highlighted her bipartisan bill to increase inspections of traffic going from the U.S. to Mexico, which would help combat the flow of illicit firearms and money that fuel drug cartels.

Senator Hassan also discussed her bipartisan congressional delegation to China last fall, during which she pushed China’s President to crack down on the export of fentanyl precursor chemicals that drug cartels purchase from Chinese businesses. After the trip, President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping agreed to more extensive cooperation to stop the flow of fentanyl into the United States. “We need to ensure that China keeps its commitment to work with us,” said Senator Hassan. “What tangible steps should the U.S. require from China in…the next 6 months? And in the next two years?”

“In terms of the precursors coming from Chinese multinational companies and supplying the cartels, I would ensure through meetings with U.S. law enforcement, U.S. officials, and Chinese officials, with those chemical companies, that they’re enhancing their KYC [Know Your Consumer] to Western standards,” said Mr. Urben. “We should ensure that these meetings take place to see that it’s actually happening.”

Senator Hassan then discussed these “Know Your Customer” laws, which would require sellers to confirm the legitimacy of their buyers in order to target illegal fentanyl precursor transactions, with Dr. Felbab-Brown. “How can the U.S. further pressure China to implement these requirements?” asked Senator Hassan.

“If China continues to insist that they are too expensive to adopt, China should feel the economic consequences of not adopting them,” said Dr. Felbab-Brown. “This would include preventing market access by Chinese companies, sanctioning some Chinese companies – placing them on either sanctions or pre-sanctions lists.”

Senator Hassan also asked Dr. Felbab-Brown, “How would the U.S. benefit from creating a more global approach to disrupting the fentanyl supply chain? More specifically, would the cooperation of Australian authorities and other Southeast Asian nations force China to take more concrete actions?” Dr. Felbab-Brown said that it could be effective for the United States to collaborate with Australian and Southeast Asian authorities to motivate action from China.