Fentanyl Bags
Plastic bags of Fentanyl are displayed on a table at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area at the International Mail Facility at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago JOSHUA LOTT/Reuters

The Chinese government is contributing to fueling the U.S. fentanyl epidemic by subsidizing its manufacturing, a House panel concluded.

A bipartisan investigation presented new details about Beijing's role in the illegal trade, which has become the "leading cause of death for Americans aged 18-45."

"Through subsidies, grants, and other incentives, the PRC harms Americans while enriching PRC companies," reads a passage of the report. It also claims that the government has ownership interest in companies tied to illegal drug trafficking.

The report added that the government "directly subsidizes the manufacturing and export of illicit fentanyl materials and other synthetic narcotics through tax rebates," a program that has not been disclosed.

Testifying before lawmakers, former attorney general Bill Barr said the findings are "groundbreaking."

"The Committee's work has uncovered persuasive evidence that the PRC and CCP are not just bystanders; they are the prime movers," he said in prepared remarks.

The report follows a recent conversation between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping about the issue, where they discussed joint efforts to counter the illegal trade.

The report said it found "no evidence of new criminal enforcement actions" to crack down on the flow of illegal fentanyl materials."

In turn, Chinese authorities have "not cooperated with U.S. law enforcement, and have even notified targets of U.S. investigations when they received requests for assistance," according to the report.

Most of the fentanyl produced enters the U.S. through Mexico, a country Washington has also chided for its perceived lack of enforcement.

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray expressed regret over the "uneven" support that Mexico has provided to U.S. authorities to help fentanyl trafficking, stating that the United States needs "much, much more" help from south of the border.

"There are individual cases that are bright spots (of cooperation with Mexico)", said Wray. "But this is such a big problem. We need consistent, sustained, and scalable assistance from them (the Mexicans)."

Fentanyl has become a major issue in the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S., as the country has seen a tragic increase in overdose deaths from it and other drugs that have been associated with it. A record 76,000 Americans died after ingesting synthetic opioids in 2022, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

According to the FBI director, the agency has about 400 active investigations against the leadership of the Mexican cartels inside the United States, of which 88 are based in the judicial districts of the border with Mexico, the main drug trafficking corridor to the United States.

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