WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration is considering an executive order to crack down on shipments of fentanyl and counterfeit goods, according to people familiar with the matter, a move aimed in part at pressuring China to help the U.S. combat its opioid epidemic.
The draft order would target foreign shippers routing deliveries through the U.S. Postal Service -- not the two-largest U.S. couriers United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp., according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. One person familiar with the proposal said that China is a focus for the action, though the presidential order is not limited to that nation.
Washington has criticized Beijing for not doing enough to curb the flow of fentanyl, a highly addictive painkiller that's played a role in the opioid epidemic blamed for thousands of deaths in the U.S
President Donald Trump has linked the issue to trade talks, citing President Xi Jinping's failure to stop the smuggling of China-made fentanyl as a reason for hiking tariffs earlier this month on Chinese goods.
Trump said Xi agreed, as part of a December 2018 temporary trade truce, to designate fentanyl as a controlled substance -- a move that would expose its sellers to the maximum penalty under Chinese law. Since then, Trump repeatedly said Xi broke his word.
China has pushed back, arguing that the epidemic is because of the U.S.'s own lax regulation over the prescription of opioids to patients.
"I am ordering all carriers, including Fed Ex, Amazon, UPS and the Post Office, to SEARCH FOR & REFUSE all deliveries of Fentanyl from China (or anywhere else!). Fentanyl kills 100,000 Americans a year. President Xi said this would stop – it didn't," Trump said on Aug. 23 in a series of tweets, in which he also announced more tariffs and ordered American companies to immediately start looking for alternatives to China.
The order, expected in coming months, will allow the U.S. Postal Service to stop doing business with foreign entities that are found to be shipping illegal goods or substances, the people said. Initially, an entity found in violation would be placed on a shame list. If the illegal shipments continue to come in after a 90-day period, the entity would be barred from delivering to the U.S., they said.
While Trump mentioned private carriers like FedEx and UPS in his August tweet, two of the people said the plan is to hit foreign entities. Agencies like state-owned China Post, for instance, could face heightened scrutiny, they said.
The White House declined to comment.