Senator Collins: The Fentanyl Crisis ‘Begins and Ends in China’


Washington, D.C. — At a full Appropriations Committee hearing to review the President’s fiscal year 2024 budget request related to U.S.-China policy, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chairman of the Committee, stressed the need to curtail China’s involvement in the fentanyl crisis in America. 


In her opening remarks, Senator Collins said:


As one Department of Homeland Security official recently testified, the fentanyl crisis ‘begins and ends in China.’  Many precursor chemicals originate in China, and Chinese criminal organizations launder the drug cartels’ money and source the pill pressers that facilitate the distribution of this deadly poison. 


Just last month, employees at a restaurant in Auburn, Maine, opened a crate expecting to find mugs they had ordered.  Instead, they found 14 kilograms of fentanyl – that is enough to kill five times the population of the entire state of Maine.  Thankfully, the employees called local law enforcement, who seized the fentanyl, undoubtedly saving many lives.  


Addressing the fentanyl crisis must be at the top of this Administration’s agenda with China.


Senator Collins continued in her Q&A with Secretary Blinken:


What specifically is the State Department doing to deter China from continuing to send to Mexico the precursor ingredients and the pill presses for fentanyl that eventually makes its way into the United States?


Secretary Blinken:


In 2019, China agreed to schedule fentanyl and fentanyl related substances.  The positive development there was that the export of fentanyl itself to the United States more or less ended.  However, what emerged in its place is exactly what you described.  And that is the fabrication of precursor chemicals, many, if not all of them perfectly licit, but then illegally diverted to the production of fentanyl, often made in Mexico, and then as you know shipped in to the United States.  We have been, in every single engagement that we’ve had with China, pressing this issue in particular, pressing China to take action to get control of the illicit diversion of precursors into fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.  China’s response has been a number of things, including their view that this a demand problem for the United States and that while they have scheduled fentanyl, we have not… We have also pressed them to not only do what they have already done, but again to crack down on the diversion.


In the absence of that, we have sanctioned Chinese individuals and Chinese entities that we have found taking part of this diversion.  At the same time, we are building an international coalition of countries on fentanyl and on synthetic opioids to make this a global challenge.  And here’s why, and here’s how this will affect China.  What we’re seeing, because our market has tragically become saturated, we are seeing criminal enterprises push to make new markets in other parts of the world – in Europe and in Asia.  As a result, the demand signal on China to take effective action I am convinced is going to grow, and not just from us, from other parts of the world. China is going to have to decide whether it wants to be responsive to that demand signal or whether it’s going to continue to allow, one way or another, the diversion of these chemicals.  We will continue to take resolute action wherever we find those who are engaged in the diversion.  And at the same time we would be better off if we could secure genuine cooperation from China in helping us deal with this problem.


Senator Collins:


Do we have that now?


Secretary Blinken:


We do not have that now.




As the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins is pressing forward with Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) to hold subcommittee hearings on the President’s budget request.  These hearings provide an important opportunity to assess our country’s needs for the coming year and will help guide Senators Collins and Murray’s efforts to write the annual government funding bills.