US Lifts Sanctions on Chinese Institute to Seek Fentanyl Cooperation

The United States on Thursday removed the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science (IFS) from a trade sanctions list, in a bid to move forward with counternarcotics cooperation with China. 

The decision comes as U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is negotiating with China to resume bilateral cooperation and establish a working group aimed at stopping the flow of synthetic drugs and precursor chemicals into the U.S. that contribute to the fentanyl crisis.  

“The continued listing of the IFS on the Commerce Entity List was a barrier to achieving cooperation on stopping the trafficking of precursor chemicals,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said during a briefing on Thursday. 

“When we evaluated the issue and looked at all the merits of de-listing the IFS, ultimately we decided that given the steps China was willing to take to cut down on precursor trafficking, it was an appropriate step” to remove the Chinese institute from Washington’s sanction list, Miller told reporters.  

“We have to make tough decisions in this administration” to secure the cooperation with China on fentanyl trafficking, Miller told VOA.   

Added to list in 2020

In 2020, the U.S. Commerce Department added China’s Institute of Forensic Science on its entity list for “engaging in activities contrary to the foreign policy interests of the United States” and over alleged abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups.   

That measure effectively prohibited the institute from receiving most goods from U.S. suppliers. 

Human rights advocates expressed concern that Washington’s decision to remove the Chinese institute from the trade sanction list raises questions about the U.S.’ commitment to addressing China’s human rights practices. 

“I acknowledge the pressing issue of the fentanyl trade, which poses a threat to Americans and is a matter of grave concern. However, it’s crucial to emphasize that the ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs is a matter of bipartisan concern, as well,” Rayhan Asat, a U.S.-based Uyghur human rights lawyer, told VOA on Thursday. 

Leading cause of death

Fentanyl is the leading cause of death of Americans between the ages of 18 to 49.  

Currently, China remains the primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail and express consignment operations, serving as the main source for all fentanyl-related substances entering the United States, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.   

During Biden’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Woodside, California, Wednesday on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings, both agreed to resume bilateral cooperation in combating global illicit drug manufacturing and trafficking. This includes synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, with plans to establish a working group for ongoing communication and law enforcement coordination on counternarcotics issues. 

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