The opioids' role in the Sino-US trade tariffs
A former editor-in-chief of The Straits Times in Singapore has written an opinion article questioning the reasons behind the United States' plans to impose new tariffs on Chinese goods, accusing the Trump administration of blaming China for its opioids problem.
Prescription medicine [File Photo: IC]
In the article titled "The strange link between tariffs, opioids, and opium" published in The Straits Times earlier this month, Leslie Fong explained his take on the latest development in the Sino-US tariffs dispute. He said that the sudden threat to impose tarriffs on Chinese products worth US$300 billion on Aug 1 "should set people thinking" about two striking issues.
Firstly, Fong said people should question the sudden move for the U.S. to impose new tariffs on Chinese goods when the world had thought the latest round of trade talks had gone well.
Secondly, he claimed that the U.S. is raising tariffs because of a painkiller called "fentanyl", and that this seems to be aimed at "elevating America's domestic crisis of opioid addiction to the status of an international dispute between the world's two largest economies."
In the article, Fong said this tactic appears not to have worked on Beijing as it said it "will not negotiate with a gun pointed to its head". He added Trump's announcement has cost investors around the world billions of dollars. If there were indeed companies and individuals who made a killing as a result of the sudden announcement then that begs the question, "who are they?" Fong asked.
In the article, Fong went on to express his views on how pain drugs came to plague the U.S. He accused Pharmaceutical companies of having failed to issue sufficient warnings about their addictive qualities. He also said they provided incentives to doctors to over prescribe them to patients. He argued that this caused the addiction problem to spiral out of control. Addicts turned to the streets to get their illegal fixes of drugs like fentanyl, hydrocodone, tramadol and many other analogues, Fong wrote in his article. As part of attempts to deal with the problem, Fong claimed the Trump administration started to target key suppliers of the drugs, including Mexico and its drug cartels, and China, whose chemical factories are said to be involved in very profitable fentanyl production.
Quoting Wikipedia, Fong said it is easy to synthesize fentanyl, and small packets of fentanyl can be mailed to the U.S. from anywhere. He argued the opioid epidemic is a problem of the Americans' own making. He questioned why policing China, and use up scarce enforcement resources, saying China has likely done enough to stop access to chemicals needed for fentanyl synthesis.
Fong further pointed out that there is a certain historical irony in all this. He claimed back in the 19th century Britain forced opium on a weakened China, and that American companies also profited hugely from that drug trade.
Fong concluded his opinion piece by stating: "Today, less than 200 years later, America blames China for a drug epidemic started by its own pharmaceutical companies and doctors. Karmic retribution?"