US and China Negotiate Trade While Fentanyl Still Kills Americans

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Right Now at NRN w/Daniel Lacalle: Trade Talk Tension and the Opioid Epidemic

Trade talks between the US and China is set to happen in roughly two weeks, as negotiators had made progress in easing trade tensions in last week’s deputy-level meetings. President Trump made clear that if the US couldn’t get the right deal, he’d be happy with the tariffs. One matter threatening to become a flashpoint in this trade war is that China is responsible for most of the illicit fentanyl flowing into the US, which still continues, despite a promise Xi Jinping, Trump’s Chinese counterpart, had made previously. Daniel Lacalle, business man, a PhD and an economist, was interviewed on NRN’s RIGHT NOW Podcast and gave his insight on China and the situation of the trade war, and how it affects each nation’s economy in the midst of disagreement.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row column_type=”block” font_color=”light” background_type=”video” video_bg_url=”″ video_bg_start_time=”139″ video_bg_end_time=”900″ video_bg_parallax=”true” add_overlay=”yes” overlay_opacity=”20″ bt_text=”TRADE & ECONOMICS” bt_font_weight=”300″ bt_font_style=”italic” shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ add_bigtext=”true” min_height=”100″ bt_max_width=”300″][vc_column][wvc_video_opener caption_position=”bottom” video_url=”″ caption=”Economist Spotlight | Interview with DANIEL LACALLE | RIGHT NOW Podcast”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]President Trump noted that the continued smuggling of fentanyl as a reason for escalating the trade war with Beijing, but a Chinese drug enforcement official rejected the allegation and called the claim “completely groundless and untrue.” Without a sound and accepted resolution in the trade talks, the issue between the world’s two largest economies could become an even bigger problem.

In early September, Trump had announced a new effort to deal with the opioid epidemic saying, “To cut off the supply of ultra lethal narcotics at the source, my administration has also prioritized stopping the influx of fentanyl from China.” The regulations of drugs and chemicals in China is looser than other countries and fentanyl is easy to manufacture.

If China and the US plan to find common ground in trade delegations, a lasting solution and agreement to the opioid problem needs to be recognized, as it affects both the US and Chinese economies. “Things might get worse if the Chinese economy does not start to take action to the barrier to trade that it has,” said Lacalle. “Those barriers are not just tariffs. It’s about intellectual property, agreements, rule of law, [and] independence of the free press.”

President Trump’s older brother died of complications from alcoholism, likely where the passion for taking on the drug abuse problem comes from. “What the Trump administration has said is that if we continue down this same route, things are going to get a lot worse,” said Lacalle. Tying the fentanyl problem to trade negotiations may make things a bit sticky, but Trump continues to point the finger at China over the issue. The Midwestern Rust Belt states, the states that propelled him into the presidency in 2016, are a prime example, as many people in these states began abusing drugs as the manufacturing jobs moved overseas, many of them to China.

China Responsible for America’s Opioid Problem, Thousands Dead

How would the United States react if a foreign country killed nearly 30,000 Americans? In 2017, synthetic opioid Fentanyl killed more than 29,000. Big US pharmaceutical companies didn’t make those drugs, China did.

In the US more people die from drug overdose than die from gun violence or automobile accidents. In 2017, drug overdoses killed nearly 200 people each day. Fentanyl, which can be up to 100 times stronger than morphine, is a leading cause of overdose deaths.

Fentanyl is legal in the US. Patients in severe pain consume most of our prescribed Fentanyl. Several large US pharmaceutical companies make the legal version. China is the world’s leading manufacturer of the illegal versions. That’s not an accusation, that’s a fact. President Trump called them out publicly.

“If China cracks down on this ‘horror drug,’ using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!” President Trump tweeted. Yu Haibin of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission countered: there is “no proof” and described Trump’s comments as “unacceptable and irresponsible.” Bull crap.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row equal_height=”” shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″][vc_column][wvc_audio_embed link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

One Kilogram can Kill 500,000

Exact numbers for Chinese Fentanyl exports and related drugs are unknown. Illegal operations are notoriously bad at reporting. However, in a 2016 letter to the United Nations, the Obama administration listed 257 suppliers of two key precursor drugs used in Fentanyl production. More than half those suppliers were located in China. The evidence is clear.

Synthetic Fentanyl drugs are cheap to make, openly sold online and shipped on common carriers, including USPS. In top destinations US and Mexico, drug dealers add tiny amounts of Fentanyl to other drugs, especially heroin, to supercharge potency. China and their drug dealer partners are gambling with American lives. The risks are huge.

One kilogram of Fentanyl can kill 500,000 people. Fentanyl can be fatal even in tiny doses. “Fentanyl is potentially lethal, even at very low levels. Ingestion of doses as small as 0.25mg can be fatal,” states the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). It is also easy to alter the drugs chemical composition to create variant drugs, known as Fentanyl analogues.

A Worldwide Problem

Kirsten Madison, Assistant Secretary of State, said the situation is the most “severe drug crisis” the US has ever faced. According to the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, “The countless possibilities to create new compounds by small changes in chemical structures pose a growing challenge to international control of the opioid trade,” The US must attack this problem at the source.

In October 2017, US authorities announced the first ever indictments of two Chinese individuals for conspiracy “to distribute large quantities” of synthetic Fentanyl as well as other opioids. “Fentanyl and its analogues are the number one killer drug in America today, and most of them come from China,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said flatly.

Katherine Pfaff, spokesperson for the US Drug Enforcement Agency, said that interceptions from the US postal system, information from people on the ground, and tracking cyber footprints, leads them to believe a “significant amount” comes from China. The Canadians also pointed the finger at China.

Europe is also feeling the effects of China’s drug trafficking. “It appears that most shipments of new Fentanyls (sic) coming into Europe originate from companies based in China,” according to the European drug monitoring agency report. Production of the drug in small illegal laboratories in Europe is also a problem but, as in the US, the primary culprit is China.

States Can’t Take China to Court

Chinese authorities don’t officially acknowledge that most Fentanyl is produced in China. However, they have taken some action to stem the tide. Martin Raithelhuber, an expert on synthetic drugs with the UN, says China has put new restrictions on over 150 chemicals commonly used to create synthetic drugs.

Bryce Pardo, drugs policy expert at the Rand Corporation, has doubts. He described China’s regulatory capacity as “limited.” Pardo noted, “The division of responsibility between provincial and central governments, and lack of oversight and government and corporate accountability, increase opportunities for corruption.”

Johnson & Johnson was just fined $572 million by an Oklahoma judge for their role in the opioid crisis. The truth is Johnson & Johnson supplies less than 1% of the Fentanyl used in Oklahoma and in the US, the legal variety. Experts believe China provides about 55% of the illegal variety, the deadly street stuff. Too bad states can’t take China to court.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Author Profile

Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer
Dr. Christopher W. Smithmyer
Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.