On CNBC, Portman Discusses the 60 Minutes Report on His Fentanyl Investigation, China Trade Talks, USMCA & Tensions with Iran

September 17, 2019 | Portman Difference

In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning, Senator Portman discussed the 60 Minutes report highlighting his investigation into the influx of fentanyl into the U.S. from China via our postal system. He also highlighted the importance of continuing discussions with China in order to secure a trade agreement between the two countries. He voiced optimism about the prospects of the House and Senate passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement this year.  And he discussed the recent attacks in Saudi Arabia.

Excerpts of his interview can be found below and a video can be found here:


“For those who didn’t see [the 60 Minutes Report], Joe, this is about the fact that China for years has been sending us this poison through the mail system, fentanyl which is 50 times more powerful than heroin, and it’s coming directly from China in the mail system. They’ve done very little to stop it and they have the power to do that so even now, Joe, we still don’t have all the data we need on the mail that’s coming into our country to be able to identify the packages and try to keep some of this out.

“I think so, I think it is one of the irritants in the relationship and the president has raised it at every meeting. I’ve been over there and I’ve raised it with senior officials in their administration. In the Chinese government.

“Fentanyl is the killer. Fentanyl has been responsible for more overdose deaths than any other drugs and even today while we have some progress on heroin and on prescription drugs, fentanyl continues to be mixed with others.

“Yeah 72,000 people died of overdoses in 2017 at the high water mark again, a little better now but fentanyl continues to be the top problem and they could do something about it and they should.”


“Joe, the smoke signals are a little more positive now, including coming from China saying they’re ready to talk. You look at what’s happened to the Chinese economy. It has weakened. Their devaluation of their currency helps with regard to trade but the fundamentals are not as strong. I think they see a need to do something. One thing that’s happening, and there’s been some discussion of this I know on your show, is that some companies are choosing not to manufacture or locate in China but, rather, choose other places like Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, or other spots. I think that’s part of what the Chinese government is concerned about, the lack of investment in addition to the trade issues. So I think this one might work and, look, we need to make progress on three big areas. One is the imbalance overall and they need to open up their markets to more of our products but the big ones really are tech transfer and intellectual property protection, which is how this all got started with the section 301 investigation and then they need to stop subsidizing so much. They have these enterprises that are obviously heavily subsidized but also they subsidize other industries and sectors of the economy. And that’s not fair, and that’s not consistent with our international rules and our laws. So I think if we can address those issues even if it isn’t a perfect agreement, Joe, I think it’s a great step forward.”


“[USMCA] is a no brainer to look at and say it’s better than the status quo, which is NAFTA. I mean, for Democrats it’s better than the status quo by far and I think for Republicans it is too for those of us more on the pro trade side because this agreement does have enforceable labor standards, it does have enforceable environmental standards, it actually establishes a minimum wage of 40 to 45 percent of the autos, which helps the United States. It brings jobs back here. The independent International Trade Commission, ITC, has said that. On intellectual property it’s an improvement. On digital economy there’s nothing in NAFTA now so that’s absolutely needed. This is better in every respect than the status quo.”


“Well, we need all the information first. We need to get the Europeans on board. I think that’s possible from what I know because it appears that the initial claims that this came from Yemen just aren’t true. The Houthis claimed responsibility but it came from the direction of Iraq or Iran. The question is who in Iraq might have sent these drones and these missiles. So, we need better information when we have the information I think we need to get the Europeans with us and others in the region and respond.”