To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.
WASHINGTON – During a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, Senator Maggie Hassan pressured U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to include the criminalization of fentanyl in the final U.S.-China trade agreement. The Senator followed up on President Trump’s assurance from December of 2018 when he tweeted that Chinese President Xi Jinping promised that China would criminalize the sale of fentanyl.
“I have concerns that you seemed to be backtracking from the President’s assurance that this would happen,” Senator Hassan said. “Given the level of importance this has for so many, will you commit that any final agreement will include this step, which the President has touted as a ‘gamechanger’?”
U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer responded, “[Fentanyl] is something that the President in a meeting with the President of China raised a very big issue about and the President of China agreed with him. And then the question is, do we write it in the trade agreement? And my own preference would be that we do, but whether it’s in the trade agreement or not, the President of the United States views himself as having a commitment and he views it as something that’s gonna happen.”
Senator Hassan pushed back, “Almost 500 people died in 2017 and in 2016 from overdoses of opioids in my state, most of which came from fentanyl, so I would ask you to identify this as a priority.”
“I completely agree with you as a personal matter,” U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer said. “But more importantly, the President completely agrees with you, he has exactly the same level of – sort of – of concern about this as you do, I assure you. I’ll talk to him in the next day and I’m gonna tell him that we had this conversation.”