US ‘will make every effort’ to strengthen cooperation with China on fentanyl

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration will work to step up cooperation with China to stop the flow of synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States, a U.S. counternarcotics official said ahead of the visit. of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing. .

Efforts could include negotiations with China over the 2020 U.S. decision to put China’s Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science on the Commerce Department’s “entity list,” barring it from receive US exports.

“There are a number of reasons why it was listed. So just not listing it won’t happen,” said Todd Robinson, assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Enforcement Affairs. of law at the State Department, in an interview.

“It’s a complicated question. The lab is large, it’s part of a much larger facility, and only part of the facility is listed.”

The United States said the institute was complicit in human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Chinese ethnic minorities.

But Robinson said blocking the flow of fentanyl and precursors to the United States and securing China’s cooperation on the issue was a top priority.

“That’s an important question. And it’s a question that I think will most likely be raised directly with the secretary’s Chinese counterpart, the PRC (People’s Republic of China) counterpart. And depending on the answer, I think everything is on the table in terms of getting some sort of global cooperation on this issue,” Robinson said.

The U.S. drug overdose death rate involving fentanyl has more than tripled from 2016 to 2021, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and is increasingly being mixed with other illicit drugs, often with deadly results. Drug-related overdose deaths in the United States topped 100,000 in 2021, according to government estimates.


Blinken will travel to China next week for long-delayed talks aimed at stabilizing relations. A planned February trip was postponed due to a dispute involving an alleged Chinese spy balloon.

He will be the most senior US government official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021.

In 2022, China’s ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang, called Washington’s decision to sanction the institute “shocking” and said it was a key public institution in the fight against fentanyl. . Qin Gang is now China’s foreign minister.

Stemming the illicit flow of fentanyl “precursor” chemicals from China has been a priority for Washington, but US officials have told Reuters their Chinese counterparts are reluctant to cooperate.

Robinson said he doesn’t find it “so unusual” for China to seek concessions from Washington in exchange for fentanyl aid.

“But I think because of the nature of this issue, we’re going to do everything we can to get to a better place with the RPC on precursor chemicals,” he said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by Michael Martina and Kristina Cooke in San Francisco, Editing by Don Durfee and Angus MacSwan)

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