Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Ranking Member of the House global human rights subcommittee, along with Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) introduced legislation (HR 1542) on Tuesday to bolster efforts to combat the opioid epidemic by cracking down on the production and import of deadly fentanyl made in China.
“Chinese-made fentanyl is ending up on our streets and the human cost is real—over 29,000 overdose deaths in 2017 were fentanyl-related,” said Smith, who chaired a Subcommittee hearing in September on the threat of Chinese-produced fentanyl. “China is not doing enough to prevent its production and export to the U.S. My legislation sets up mechanisms by which the U.S. can enforce sanctions against Chinese officials and anyone there involved in this drug trade.”
“Synthetic fentanyl, a clear majority of which is produced in China and then exported to the U.S., is killing Americans from all walks of life,” said Congressman Suozzi, lead Democratic cosponsor of the legislation. “Our law enforcement agencies are doing all they can, but the Chinese Government seems to have little interest in stopping the flow of this deadly substance across our borders. This bipartisan bill will help hold China accountable for its contribution to the opioid epidemic in our country.”
“Congress must take action to stem the tide of illegal drugs crossing our borders, including fentanyl, a synthetic opioid shipped to the United States from China,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), a cosponsor of the legislation. “I have spoken with East Tennesseans and know the irreparable destruction caused by drug addiction. I refuse to stand by and allow this crisis to continue, which is why I took action and cosponsored this legislation. I thank my colleague, Representative Smith for his leadership in combating the opioid epidemic.”
“The statistics surrounding the deadly drug Fentanyl are staggering. The opioid is now the most frequent cause of drug overdose cases, accounting for more than 20,000 deaths every year,” said Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), a cosponsor of the legislation. “I’ve met with many families who’ve lost loved ones to this highly potent drug and we must do everything we can to get it off our streets. I’m proud to support this legislation to hold those accountable in China who make it available illegally in the US.”
The Smith-Suozzi bill mandates the creation of a joint effort by the State and Treasury Departments to identify all Chinese government officials and persons involved in fentanyl production and trafficking into the U.S. The U.S. government could then use sanctions to hold these individuals accountable who would be identified through this joint effort, such as under the Global Magnitsky Act which Smith helped shepherd into law in the 114th Congress.
In September, Smith chaired a hearing of the Subcommittee on identifying and countering the threat of Chinese-produced fentanyl imported into the U.S. Officials from the State Department and Drug Enforcement Agency testified, along with a panel of private witnesses which included Ocean County, NJ Prosecutor Joseph Coronato—from Smith’s district.
“What my hearing found, through the witness testimony, was that China was not doing enough to end this drug trade,” Smith said. “Although President Xi Jinping promised to President Trump at the G-20 Summit to crack down on the production of fentanyl, we have seen little tangible progress. We cannot allow this matter to become another Chinese empty promise—anyone involved in the production and trafficking of fentanyl must be held accountable.”