Biden and Xi agree new anti-drug initiative to fight fentanyl smuggling at summit

Biden administration say that agreement would set back Latin American drug dealers

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Wednesday 15 November 2023 20:47 EST
President Biden greets Chinese President Xi Jinping at APEC Summit

Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have reached an agreement to crack down on illegal fentanyl production.

Mr Biden told reporters on Wednesday evening that China had agreed to clamp down on the manufacture of pill presses and precursor chemicals that are used to make the deadly drug.

The president was asked if he “trusted” his Chinese counterpart to carry out the promised actions on fentanyl.

“Trust but verify as the old saying goes, that is where I am. We are in a competitive relationship, but my responsibility is to make it rational and manageable so it doesn’t end up in conflict, that is what I am all about,” said Mr Biden.

Earlier a Biden administration official said that the agreement on fentanyl was important as it would set Latin American drug dealers “back for a time.”

The senior official said that China had agreed to go after companies that produce chemicals used in the production of the deadly narcotic.

“The president basically said, look this is one of the worst drug problems the United States has ever faced. Tens of thousands of Americans are perishing annually, critical to get our hands on it. So we worked intensively with every element of the Chinese system on a plan that has the Chinese using a number of procedures to go directly after specific companies that make precursors for Fentanyl,” the official told reporters. “They’re taking a number of steps that are designed to dramatically curtail those supplies.”

The officials said that the US will “want to see whether China continues to follow up”.

“In many respects, the proof is in the pudding here and these are important steps and we think they’re important and the president thought this is the important central thing we can do in US- China relations for the American people.”

In 2022, 68 per cent of the reported 107,081 drug overdose deaths in the US came from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr Biden and his Chinese counterpart discussed US-China relations in San Francisco on Wednesday, 15 November. Talks between the two leaders took place while they both attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference in California.

President Joe Biden greets China's President President Xi Jinping at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, California

Mr Xi last visited the US in person in 2017 and this is the first conversation between the two leaders in a year.

Officials also said that there would be a resumption of military communications between the two countries, meaning Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will speak with his Chinese counterpart once that person is named.

Senior military commanders will also communicate with their counterparts along with engagements at much lower levels, the official told AP.

Mr Biden was “very clear” to Mr Xi that such communications between the US and China should be institutionalised and that they are “not done as a gift or as a favour to either side,” the official said.

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