President Biden has made beating the overdose epidemic a key priority in his Unity Agenda for the Nation, including a focus on cracking down on global illicit drug trafficking and disrupting the flow of illicit fentanyl and its precursors.
During their November 15 meeting, President Biden and President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced the resumption of bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics, with a focus on reducing the flow of precursor chemicals fueling illicit fentanyl and synthetic drug trafficking. For years, bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics has been suspended. The PRC is now taking law enforcement action against illicit precursor suppliers, has issued a notice to industry warning Chinese companies against illicit trade in precursor chemicals and pill presses equipment, and has committed to restart key law enforcement cooperation.
Today’s progress is one of many actions that President Biden has taken to counter the global threat posed by the trafficking of illicit drugs into the United States that is causing the deaths of a hundred thousand Americans annually, as well as countless more non-fatal overdoses.
The Biden-Harris Administration has initiated new measures to disrupt the trafficking of illicit fentanyl and its precursors into American communities and dismantle the firearms trafficking networks that enable drug traffickers to grow their enterprises. The U.S. government, alongside our partners, will continue our efforts to prevent the production and trafficking of illicit synthetic drugs through multiple efforts, including the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats, which has brought together over 100 countries to collectively address the scourge of fentanyl.
The Biden-Harris Administration also has taken historic action to expand access to life-saving public health services and remove decades-long barriers to treatment for substance use disorder. To help advance these Administration efforts, President Biden has requested $26 billion for prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery support services in his FY24 budget request. In addition, President Biden is requesting $1.55 billion in his supplemental budget request to strengthen these support services across the country.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s diplomacy with PRC has resulted in concrete action:
- The PRC is issuing a notice to its domestic industry advising on the enforcement of laws and regulations related to trade in precursor chemicals and pill presses equipment. A similar notice to industry in 2019 led to a drastic reduction in seizures of fentanyl shipments to the United States from China.
- The PRC has begun taking law enforcement action against Chinese synthetic drug and chemical precursor suppliers. As a result, certain PRC-based pharmaceutical companies have ceased operations and have had some international payment accounts blocked.
- At the beginning of this month, and for the first time in nearly three years, the PRC re-started submitting incidents to the International Narcotics Control Board’s global IONICS database, which is used to share real-time information internationally about things like suspicious shipments and suspected trafficking. This information will help global law enforcement agencies identify trends and conduct intelligence-driven investigations that disrupt illicit synthetic drug supply chains.
Together, the United States and China are now announcing the launch of a counter-narcotics working group to create a platform for policy and technical experts to discuss law enforcement efforts and exchange information on counter-narcotics efforts going forward.
These announcements build on the Administration’s comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to tackling global illicit drug trafficking. The Administration’s decisive actions to crack down on drug trafficking include:
- Announcing a strategic approach to commercially disrupting the global illicit fentanyl supply chain. The Biden-Harris Administration announced a strengthened whole-of-government approach to save lives by disrupting the trafficking of illicit fentanyl and its precursors into American communities. This approach builds on the President’s National Drug Control Strategy and helps deliver on his State of the Union call to beat the opioid and overdose epidemic by cracking down on the production, sale, and trafficking of illicit fentanyl to help save lives, protect the public health, and improve the public safety of our communities.
- Increasing security at the border. Under President Biden’s leadership, this Administration has invested significant amounts of funding for law enforcement efforts to address illicit fentanyl trafficking and enabled historic seizures of illicit fentanyl on the border. Further, President Biden’s national security supplemental funding request includes more than $1.2 billion to stop the flow of illicit fentanyl into American communities; portions of this funding will support an additional 1,300 border patrol agents to work alongside the 20,200 border patrol agents already funded in the FY24 budget.
- Deploying detection technology. President Biden’s FY24 budget called for $535 million in U.S. Customs and Border Protection for border technology, including $305 million for Non-Intrusive Inspection Systems, with a primary focus on fentanyl detection at ports of entry. Further, President Biden’s national security supplemental funding request includes more than $1.2 billion to stop the flow of illicit fentanyl into American communities; portions of this funding will ensure deployment of more than 100 cutting-edge detection machines that will help detect fentanyl at ports of entry at the southwest border.
- Expanding our High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program. The HIDTA program devotes more than $302 million to supporting federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement working to stop traffickers across all 50 states. Earlier this year, the White House announced the designation of nine new counties to the HIDTA Program. The addition of these nine counties to the HIDTA program will allow additional resources to be deployed to areas hardest hit by drug trafficking and overdoses.
- Targeting the global illicit supply chain. President Biden issued the Executive Order on Imposing Sanctions on Foreign Persons Involved in the Global Illicit Drug Trade to target the enablers of the global illicit synthetic drug supply chain including raw material brokers, financiers, and others. This allows the U.S. government to target not just drug kingpins but also those who operate their businesses.
- Launching the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats. The Biden-Harris Administration launched the Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats that will help accelerate efforts against illicit synthetic drugs and employ coordinated approaches to prevent illicit drug manufacturing, detect emerging drug threats, disrupt trafficking, address illicit finance, and respond to public safety and public health impacts. The Administration brought together more than 100 countries and 11 international organizations to take action knowing that countering illicit synthetic drugs must be a global policy priority.
- Regulating “precursor” chemicals used to produce illicit fentanyl. At the request of the United States, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted to control three chemicals used by drug traffickers to produce illicit fentanyl. In addition, the United States placed 28 chemicals and certain equipment used in the production of fentanyl, methamphetamine, PCP, LSD, and other controlled substances and listed chemicals on the Controlled Substances Act’s Special Surveillance List. These additions include precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl as well as pill press punches and dies, which are used to press fentanyl into fake pills.
- Bringing law enforcement actions against every aspect of the global illicit fentanyl supply chain. The United States has executed a network-focused strategy to attack every aspect of the global illicit fentanyl supply chain and dismantle the criminal organizations that operate it. In just the last year, the U.S. government brought: criminal indictments against chemical companies for supplying precursor chemicals to be made into fentanyl; criminal charges against leaders, enforcers, and associates of the largest and most powerful drug cartel in the world and the one responsible for the vast majority of fentanyl entering the United States; criminal charges against more than 3,300 associates of the drug cartels responsible for the last mile of distribution of fentanyl on our streets and on social media. As part of these criminal cases, law enforcement seized fentanyl precursor chemicals, fentanyl analogues, fentanyl additives, and finished fentanyl amounting to more than 263 million deadly doses of fentanyl.
- Working with Mexico and Canada to counter illicit fentanyl, the Biden-Harris Administration established the Trilateral Fentanyl Committee in 2022. This high level committee is strengthening regulatory frameworks associated with the manufacture, shipping, and sale of precursor chemicals and related equipment. Expanded bilateral collaboration with Mexico has also yielded significant achievements in 2023—including closer coordination on law enforcement investigations and actions, such as the September extradition of Ovidio Guzman Lopez (son of “El Chapo”) to the United States, multiple additional joint investigations to disrupt and interdict narcotics and arms trafficking, and coordinated public health and public safety initiatives.