WASHINGTON – Sen. Charles Schumer is proposing a bill that would take on China for trafficking illicit fentanyl into America.
The bill, which is the first-ever fentanyl sanctions bill, would give law enforcement and intelligence community more tools to combat the opioid epidemic, empower the President to call-out foreign traffickers and use economic sanctions, similar to the kinds used to respond to Putin and Russian oligarchs, to cripple foreign labs and apply economic pressure to countries turning a blind eye to fentanyl drug production and trafficking.
“For years, Chinese laboratories have been cooking-up formulas of death and freely trafficking lethal fentanyl across New York, and to many other places across America, where it is killing tens-of-thousands of people—and it has to stop,” Schumer said. “When it comes to taking genuine action to address this crisis, China continues to kick the can down the road while American lives are kicked to the curb, enveloped by addiction or cut all too short by tragedy.”
The most recent deferral of action came during the G-20 summit, where China made a verbal commitment to act on the trafficking of fentanyl, but nothing has happened since.
“Since the G-20 summit, when it concerns the export of fentanyl, we have failed to see a signed and enforceable agreement, a solid plan or genuine commitment from China. We cannot be satisfied with handshakes and group photos, or we will not wait forever. Instead, we must present China with a tough but fair consequence when it comes to the wave of fentanyl flowing into the United States,” Schumer added.
Schumer explained that the Fentanyl Sanctions Act is intended to give law enforcement officials more tools to combat the opioid epidemic. It would direct the President to publically identify foreign traffickers of opioids on a semiannual basis and use a number of economic policy tools to cripple their operations, including deny access to U.S. markets, blocking transactions with U.S. financial institutions and denying visas.
The legislation broadly defines “Traffickers of opioids” to hold accountable manufacturers in China and other countries who make fentanyl analogues and ship them illicitly to the U.S., transnational criminal organizations like those in Mexico, who mix fentanyl with other drugs and traffic them into the U.S., and financial institutions that aide these entities.
While the sanctions are mandatory, the legislation would only allow the President to waive certain sanctions on state-owned enterprises if a country, like China, scheduled the entire category of fentanyl-type substances as controlled substances and initiated substantial regulatory reforms or substantially increased the number of prosecutions of opioid traffickers.
Additionally, the legislation establishes a Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking to monitor U.S. efforts and report on how to combat the flow of synthetic opioids from China and Mexico. The legislation would also direct the President to commence diplomatic efforts to establish an international opioid control regime and provide new funding to law enforcement agencies to combat the trafficking of synthetic opioids. Finally, the legislation would provide authorize additional funding to departments and agencies to ensure robust collection of intelligence and enforcement of these new sanctions.