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Lawmakers Urge Biden Not to Remove China Sanctions for Cooperation on Fentanyl

House Republicans this week urged the Biden administration not to strike a deal with Beijing after Chinese officials reportedly offered to restart counter-narcotics activities with the U.S. in exchange for lifting certain trade restrictions. Beijing asked the U.S. to lift restrictions on the Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science, The Wall Street Journal recently reported. The institute was added to the Entity List in 2020 for its ties to human rights violations.

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Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas; Young Kim, R-Calif.; and Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said Chinese shipments of precursor chemicals used to produce fentanyl have contributed to American drug overdoses. During meetings in Beijing last month, Chinese officials told Secretary of State Antony Blinken they would cooperate with the U.S. on combating fentanyl only in exchange for lifting the sanctions, The WSJ reported.

“The [Chinese Communist Party] is using American lives as a bargaining chip to achieve sanctions relief for its human rights abuses,” the lawmakers said in a letter sent this week to Blinken and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. They added that there have been no “concrete or tangible deliverables from meetings” with China and that they are “concerned that the Biden Administration continues unproductive meetings with the PRC while not producing any results.”

The U.S. “must be careful not to compromise on our values of basic human rights in exchange for empty promises, which would be a negation of President Biden’s very own statement that ‘human rights will be the center of our foreign policy,’” the letter said. They added that China has an “obligation” to work with the U.S. on the fentanyl crisis with no preconditions.

“We do not support lifting export controls or sanctions as a condition for cooperation with the PRC,” the letter said, “and we are considering legislation to ensure the Administration cannot circumvent Congress.” The State and Commerce departments didn’t comment.