Senior American and Chinese officials will meet in Beijing this week to discuss methods to hamper the supply of fentanyl from China to the Americas, the White House announced Sunday.
The meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday will mark the beginning of the U.S.-PRC Counternarcotics Working Group, a task force attempting to “combat global illicit drug manufacturing and trafficking.”
“The U.S.-PRC Counternarcotics Working Group will provide a platform to facilitate ongoing coordination designed to tackle the illicit production, financing, and distribution of illicit drugs, and to support bilateral enforcement actions,” the White House said.
The delegation en route to China this week, led by Deputy Homeland Security Adviser Jen Daskal, will also feature high-level officials from the State Department, Treasury and Justice Department, the White House said.
The meeting marks the next step for the Biden administration in a months-long process of working with the Chinese government to stamp out fentanyl smuggling from China. The two governments began open communications over drug controls in November after years of no cooperation.
At the time, President Biden said he was skeptical of China’s commitment to the effort.
“The United States is going to seek to work together with China to target the fentanyl components. As a result of our recent diplomacy, China has already taken steps to shut down companies dealing in illicit trade of precursor chemicals,” he said in November. “We’re not just going to trust that this is happening — we have to verify it. And that’s going to save lives.”
Chinese precursor chemicals are responsible for much of the fentanyl distributed in the U.S. A significant portion of the chemicals are smuggled to Mexico, where they are manufactured into the drug.
The Treasury Department launched a similar task force in Mexico last month.
Many U.S. politicians have blamed the Chinese government for overdose deaths caused by fentanyl, while Chinese leaders have pointed to the problem as proof of government failings.
The increased cooperation on anti-drug trafficking efforts could mark a warming of relations after months of tense interactions.