On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken brought together many countries in a global effort to address the issue of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. However, China, which has been accused by some in Washington of contributing to an addiction epidemic, was not part of this gathering.
During a virtual meeting, Blinken informed ministers from over 80 countries that the United States, where approximately 110,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses last year, primarily due to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, served as a warning sign for others.
Blinken mentioned that transnational criminal enterprises, after saturating the market in the United States, are now looking to expand their profits in other places.
He said that if we don’t act together quickly and with determination, more cities around the world will experience the devastating consequences that were seen in the United States.
Starting in the 1990s, there was a significant increase in addiction among Americans. This was mainly due to the aggressive marketing of painkillers by pharmaceutical companies who were primarily focused on making profits. Unfortunately, this had a particularly strong impact on veterans who had served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As it became more evident that drugs were highly addictive, the United States urged China, the main supplier of fentanyl, to stop exporting it. China eventually complied with this request in 2019.
China continues to manufacture precursor chemicals used in the production of fentanyl. These chemicals are then transported to Mexico and Central America, where drug cartels use them to create painkillers. These illicit drugs are then smuggled into the United States.
As tensions between the United States and China continue to rise, lawmakers are expressing their concerns about addiction among their constituents. They are publicly pointing fingers at Beijing, holding them responsible for the epidemic, and calling for stricter measures to address the issue.
According to Todd Robinson, the US assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, China has been invited to the talks on Friday. He also mentioned that the United States would be happy to have China participate in future meetings.
Robinson mentioned that China, despite not taking part in the ministerial, remained in contact with countries that were involved.
We’re forming this coalition to involve other countries in their fight against these supply chains. It’s important for them to also engage with the People’s Republic of China.
Blinken indirectly recognized that China’s actions would not put an end to the epidemic.
He said that when a government aggressively restricts a precursor chemical, traffickers just end up buying it from somewhere else.
Blinken mentioned that the coalition will also consider the most effective approaches used within the country for addressing addiction.
Blinken mentioned that the coalition plans to have an in-person meeting in September during the UN General Assembly.