Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and a bipartisan group of Senators want sanctions on the table to ensure the China adequately regulates fentanyl. The Chinese government agreed earlier this week to classify fentanyl and its variants as controlled substances.

The measure would set the stage for economic sanctions against pharmaceutical and chemical companies that provide synthetic opioids to drug traffickers. Lawmakers say if China sticks with its commitment to regulate manufacturers, there won’t be a problem. 

But Brown says that too often, the country’s leaders say one thing and do another.

“They only live up to those promises if they have to. This legislation will mean they have to,” Brown said. “That’s why we need these tough but flexible new tools to go after anyone involved in manufacturing or transporting or selling theses illicit drugs that kill far too many Americans.”

The proposal’s backers come from both sides of the aisle and from states like Florida, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire that have faced the brunt of the U.S. opioid crisis.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) dismissed any suggestion that the task of stamping out illicit production and distribution is too big for the Chinese government. Citing internet censorship and Uighur Muslim concentration camps, he noted, “They’re pretty good at cracking down when they want to crack down.”

Brown says their measure will give more power to the United States to help stem the opioid epidemic.

“Our bill will give the administration new sanction tools to help combat the flood of illicit fentanyl coming in from China and Mexico," Brown said.

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