Mexico commits to target fentanyl ingredients after Xi promises crackdown to Biden

President Joe Biden meets with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the APEC summit, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP)
President Joe Biden meets with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the APEC summit, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (AP)

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to step up his country’s efforts to block the importation of precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opioid that has ravaged American streets in recent years.

The Mexican leader’s promise came at the outset of a bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden, who is in San Francisco for the final day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.

“We're fully aware of the damage it poses to the United States youth,” he said, calling his country’s efforts against fentanyl “a matter of humanism” and “an act of solidarity”.

“We are sincerely committed to continue to assist it our fullest capacity to prevent drug trafficking, namely the entrance of fentanyl and other chemical precursors,” he added.

The comments by Mr Lopez Obrador come just two days after Mr Biden brokered an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the People’s Republic of China to crack down on exports of fentanyl precursor chemicals.

Mr Biden and Mr Xi reached the deal during a bilateral meeting on Wednesday, which was held an estate outside of San Francisco.

It was their first interaction since last year’s Group of 20 summit in Indonesia.

A senior official told reporters that Mr Biden specifically pressed Mr Xi to stop the export of the narcotic ingredients, telling his Chinese counterpart that fentanyl has become “one of the worst drug problems the United States has ever faced”.

The official said the Chinese leader agreed to take action with a plan devised by American and Chinese negotiators.

“We worked intensively with every element of the Chinese system on a plan that has the Chinese using a number of procedures to go directly after specific companies that make precursors for fentanyl ... they’re taking a number of steps that are designed to dramatically curtail those supplies,” the official said.

“This will set them back for a time and obviously we’re going to want to see whether China continues to follow up. In many respects, the proof is in the pudding here and these are important steps and we think they’re important and the president thought this is the important central thing we can do in US- China relations for the American people,” they continued, adding later that the deal includes “substantial set of steps that the Chinese have agreed to undertake with trying to address fentanyl”.

Mr Biden told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday that the deal would “save lives,” and recalled how China previously promised to crack down on the export of finished fentanyl, which prompted traffickers to begin importing precursor chemicals instead.

“In 2019, you may remember, China took action to greatly reduce the amount of fentanyl shipped directly from China to the United States.  But in the years since that time, the challenge has evolved from finished fentanyl to fentanyl chemical ingredients and -- and pill presses, which are being shipped without controls,” he said. “So, today, with this new understanding, we’re taking action to significantly reduce the flow of precursor chemicals and pill presses from China to the Western Hemisphere.  It’s going to save lives, and I appreciate President Xi’s commitment on this issue”.

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