Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced legislation Sunday to crack down on fentanyl producers in China, the world’s largest exporter of the lethal synthetic drug.
The bill aims to impose economic sanctions on China and other countries that have turned a blind eye to companies and traffickers producing fentanyl, Schumer said.
“They do a lot of things, but they don’t enforce any laws (on fentanyl),” Schumer, D-N.Y, said of the Chinese government. “The problem is enforcement. Sanctions are the toughest thing we have. They not only prevent anyone who’s affiliated with these companies from coming to America, but they also can freeze their assets around the world.”
Last week, federal officials seized 254 pounds of the drug in Arizona. It was the largest fentanyl bust in U.S. history.
Schumer plans to introduce the bill as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other U.S. officials are to go to China for trade talks this week.
“Essentially, this plays into the upcoming talks as they’ll be meeting to discuss issues of trade,” said Schumer spokesman Angelo Roefaro. “Exporting illicit fentanyl and producing illicit fentanyl is a relevant topic to any meeting regarding trade (with China).”
Chinese pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturers are responsible for an estimated 90 percent of the world’s fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin.
China agreed to classify fentanyl as a controlled substance under pressure from the United States at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina last December, but Schumer says the country has not taken enough steps to crack down on the drug.
The U.S. imposed similar sanctions in 2015 against Chinese producers of flakka, a synthetic stimulant with deadly side effects. Those sanctions led to a decline in overdose deaths from the drug.
Schumer plans to introduce the bill this week.