Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador began a rare international trip to San Francisco on Wednesday evening for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. López Obrador met with his counterparts from China, Japan, and Canada on Thursday and is due to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday.
BY Catherine Osborn .- López Obrador’s first-ever bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping was closely watched—and not only because China and Mexico are expanding their economic relations. Mexico’s foreign secretary said before the meeting that the two leaders were also set to discuss efforts to address the fentanyl trade, a sore spot in both countries’ relations with Washington.
Doctors prescribe pharmaceutical fentanyl to treat severe pain, but drug traffickers—many in Mexico—have increasingly added strong doses of it to illegal street drugs that are used in the United States. Fentanyl overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans last year, and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency chief Anne Milgram has called fentanyl “the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered.”
In response to the fentanyl crisis over the past decade, countries around the world—including China, which has a massive pharmaceutical sector—put new restrictions on the sale and shipping of fentanyl as well as the ingredients used to make it, known as precursor chemicals. However, enterprising drug traffickers have found new ways to produce fentanyl with unrestricted ingredients.
Today, many of those ingredients are shipped from China to drug labs in Mexico, where they are packaged into pills that are trafficked northward into the United States. But the United States’ strained relationships with both China and Mexico have hampered anti-narcotics cooperation in recent years.
Mexico sharply reduced law enforcement cooperation with the United States after the 2020 arrest of a powerful retired Mexican general on U.S. soil.