Sen. Alexander: China Curbing Fentanyl Shipments 'Will Save Thousands of American Lives'
Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to help tamp down on shipments of hyper-dangerous drugs into the United States in a win for the Trump administration with implications for opioid-ravaged Tennessee.
Xi approved a long-sought U.S. request to prosecute people shipping synthetic opioids to the U.S. during his first meeting with President Donald Trump since a trade war between the two countries erupted earlier this year.
Trump and Xi also made tentative agreements to cool the still-simmering trade war and work together toward North Korean disarmament during the Saturday meeting at the international G20 forum.
Synthetic opioids linked to thousands of overdose deaths
China's decision to criminalize fentanyl sales is widely viewed by U.S. officials as an important step toward curtailing the growing opioid abuse crisis that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths last year.
"President Trump’s agreement yesterday with President Xi is the single most important step that could be taken to stop the flow of deadly fentanyl," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). "It will save thousands of American lives."
China is believed to be the largest exporter of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. Synthetic opioids were involved in more than 29,000 fatal overdoses last year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Fentanyl deaths in Tennessee jumped 70 percent in 2017, killing 500 people.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (Photo: Submitted)
Alexander, chair of the Senate's health committee, sponsored sweeping legislation to address the crisis that was signed by Trump in October.
The Support for Patients and Communities Act tasks the U.S. Postal Service with screening overseas packages for fentanyl, and also frees up money for new addiction-treatment programs.
"Fentanyl can be 100 times stronger than opioid prescription pills and is the source of the greatest increase in opioid overdoses and deaths," Alexander said. "The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says that almost all fentanyl that comes to the U.S. is, one way or the other, produced in China."
Last month, Alexander led a Congressional trip to Beijing to seek a stricter approach there to the synthetic opioids trade.
Tariff hike on Chinese goods put on hold
White House officials described Saturday's agreement as a "wonderful humanitarian gesture" on China's part.
After the meeting, Trump also announced a reversal from plans to hike tariffs on Chinese imports to 25 percent in January. Instead, he said the increase would be delayed as talks to reduce the trade disparity between U.S. and Chinese goods continue.
U.S. officials imposed a 10 percent tax on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods coming into the U.S. earlier this year "as part of the United States' continuing response to China's theft of American intellectual property and forced transfer of American technology."
In response, China announced plans to increase taxes on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports.
"This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China," Trump said. "It is my great honor to be working with President Xi."
U.S. officials also said "China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately."
The pair also agreed that "great progress" has been made toward North Korea disarmament, and that they will work together to "see a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula."