US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are preparing to announce a new agreement restricting the export of chemicals used to manufacture fentanyl during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. The deal, which is still to be finalized, will crack down on companies in China that produce the deadly synthetic opiate, delivering a rare win to the Biden administration.
As first reported by Bloomberg, President Xi is expected to agree to tighten restrictions on chemical companies that either produce fentanyl directly or ship out precursor materials used to synthesize the drug elsewhere. A trans-continental production pipeline allows these chemicals to flow into Mexican cartel laboratories, where they are usually pressed into pills and smuggled across the US-Mexico border.
Overdose deaths in the US linked to fentanyl increased by 279 percent between 2016 and 2021, and that number has only increased since then. Now, an average of 150 people per day die after consuming it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In return for China’s support in this matter, the Biden administration is expected to lift sanctions against the Chinese Forensic Police Institute, which had previously been banned from accessing American technologies over its role in human rights violations against China’s Uyghur Muslim minority.
Biden and Xi will reportedly finalize the agreement on the sidelines of the APEC conference in San Francisco, California, which the US is hosting for the first time since 2011. As President Xi and dignitaries from 20 other Asian countries begin to arrive for the meeting later this week, San Francisco has scrambled to clean up its homeless population and make itself presentable for an international audience.
When Biden and Xi meet in the newly cleaned city, they are also expected to discuss military tensions over Taiwan and the breakdown in communications between Beijing and Washington DC. The two leaders have not spoken in over a year, ever since a Chinese spy balloon spent nearly a week floating through American airspace before being shot down by a military plane.
If Biden is successful in negotiating this deal and stemming the flow of fentanyl, he will also manage to overcome one of the primary issues facing his 2024 reelection campaign. His administration’s failure to address the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants across the southern border has been used in frequent Republican attacks, with presidential candidates like former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also threatening military action against Mexican cartels.