BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping would be focussing “very strongly” on the U.S opioid crisis, which he has declared a public health emergency.
Trump said shortly before arriving in Beijing he would discuss as a “top priority” stopping the “flood of cheap and deadly” fentanyl “manufactured in China” when he meets Xi.
“Every year drug trafficking destroys millions and millions of lives,” Trump said in Beijing, standing next to Xi at the end of formal talks between the two.
“Today President Xi and I discussed ways we can enhance coordination to better counter the deadly drug trade and to stop the lethal flow of poisonous drugs into our countries and into our communities,” he added.
“A special emphasis will be placed on the new phenomenon - fentanyl - destroying lives by the millions. We’re going to be focussing on it very strongly, the president and myself,” Trump said, without elaborating.
Speaking later to reporters, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump and Xi agreed to take new steps.
“On the critical issue of opioids, we made some good progress to curb the flow of harmful narcotics into the United States in order to save American lives,” Tillerson said.
“The president committed to taking new actions including agreements to control the export and movement of fentanyl precursors, sharing intelligence on drug trafficking, and exchanging trafficking information,” he added, referring to Xi.
China’s drug control agency last week disputed Trump’s claim that most of the synthetic drug fentanyl at the heart of the U.S. opioid crisis was produced in China.
Opioids include prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic drug 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
The Centers for Disease Control estimated that 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl last year, surpassing common painkillers and heroin for the first time.
American law enforcement agencies and drug control experts say most of the fentanyl distributed in the United States, as well as precursor chemicals, originate from China.
While Chinese officials dispute these claims, Beijing has taken steps to crack down on the production and export of synthetic drugs, and has placed fentanyl and 22 other related compounds on its list of controlled substances.
Reporting by Steve Holland and Philip Wen; Writing by Ben Blanchard