There are life threatening packages en route to the United States from China which will kill many Americans.
But these packages have nothing to do with the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan. In fact, there is no indication the virus can be spread by packages.
The bad news is criminal enterprises in China, the world’s manufacturing hub for opioids, are flagrantly shipping fentanyl and other illicit drugs to the United States through the U.S. Postal Service, helping to fuel an epidemic taking 50,000 American lives annually.
A January 2018 bipartisan report by the Permanent Investigations Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee documented the seriousness of this problem. This led to a new law, effective January 1, 2019, to require advanced electronic data (AED), or tracking information, on all incoming packages from China that are being delivered by the Postal Service. Private shipping companies, by contrast, have been required to have AED on all incoming shipments since 2002.
Unfortunately, China Post, China’s postal service, still allows packages to be shipped without AED, though about 85 percent of packages have it. The U.S. needs to demand that China not allow packages without AED to be shipped and to make sure that all information fields for AED are completed by shippers. This is the most direct and effective way to curtail illegal drug shipments and keep them from reaching Americans.
If China refuses to do this, the U.S. should halt delivery of all non-AED packages until each one is pulled aside, and hand inspected. The delays in shipping packages from China will stretch into weeks. This should get Beijing’s attention, leading to an AED fix. If not, it will at least curtail some incoming drug shipments.
The United States should also make an all-out push for tougher global AED standards at an international postal conference this August. Drug cartels will adjust their game, such as sending items to other countries before they are sent to the U.S. The awesome power behind data analytics can make a major dent in these drug shipments, but only if all countries provide this information and if shipment forms are completed in their entirety.
Counterfeit items, many of which come from China, are another way dangerous goods harm Americans.
At a January 24 news conference, Peter Navarro, the President’s Assistant on Trade Policy, and the leaders of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security discussed a report launching a major initiative to halt counterfeit shipments. The report was blunt in its warning: “Illicit good trafficked to American consumers by e-commerce platforms and online third-party marketplaces threaten public health and safety, as well as national security.”
Counterfeit products including air bags, bike helmets, hover boards, food products – even infant formula, medications and many others take American lives and cause serious injuries. With more than 500 million package shipments entering the U.S. annually, it is also imperative that the Postal Service and the world postal system have high quality advanced electronic data.
While the U.S. can and should provide assistance to China to fight the coronavirus outbreak, we also need to persist in demanding that China help cut off criminal opioid shipments and counterfeit goods. The dangers are real, and we must demand immediate action from China.
About the Author: Paul Steidler is a Senior Fellow with the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank based in Arlington, Virginia.
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