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(NewsNation) — An “Amazon loophole” that allows the flood of uninspected packages to enter the U.S. from China is reportedly driving the fentanyl crisis, Sen. Tammy Baldwin argues .
Baldwin says this loophole has contributed to a surge in fentanyl-related deaths, with Wisconsin, her home state, experiencing a 100% increase in fentanyl overdoses since 2019.
The “de minimis loophole” allows packages valued at less than $800 to bypass thorough inspection, providing an avenue for the unchecked entry of chemical components crucial for fentanyl production.
In 2016, the nominal (de minimis) value increased from $200 to $800.
This change occurred due to the influence of e-commerce firms, particularly Amazon, aiming to import goods from China to their warehouses or customers without incurring taxes or tariffs. This adjustment facilitated streamlined transactions for the company, the American Prospect reported.
“Amazon has a big role in this. But it’s about the way we’ve put together trade deals in the past,” Baldwin said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection acknowledges that the de minimis loophole is facilitating “shipments that may contain narcotics.” The agency says bad actors are “seeking to exploit the increasing volumes of de minimis shipments to transit illicit goods, including fentanyl,” The Hill reported.
Baldwin discussed her proposed legislation, the De Minimis Reciprocity Act, which aims to exclude untrustworthy countries, specifically targeting China, from exploiting the de minimis channels.
It also advocates for limiting the facilitation of imports to express carriers, mandating more comprehensive information on every package, and utilizing the generated revenue to reshore industries from China.
When questioned about potential opposition to the bill, Baldwin acknowledged that powerful entities, such as Amazon, might play a role in resisting stricter regulations. And the de minimis loophole has allowed China and other countries to exploit the system by packaging items separately, ensuring each parcel remains under the $800 threshold, thereby avoiding tariffs, duties and scrutiny upon entry into the United States.
Currently, approximately 3 million packages arrive in the U.S. from overseas daily, with many falling under the de minimis loophole. This translates to roughly a billion packages per year that receive minimal scrutiny, posing a significant challenge in the efforts to curb the influx of precursor chemicals, especially for fentanyl.
The senator emphasized the urgency of closing this loophole, citing the devastating impact of fentanyl on communities and the need to enhance the capacity to scrutinize incoming packages effectively.
In rural America, the alarming rise in fentanyl overdoses has claimed more young lives than any other cause.
Fentanyl, a powerful opioid, is the deadliest drug in the U.S. today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that drug overdose deaths have increased more than sevenfold from 2015 to 2021.
The Biden administration took aim earlier this month at the fentanyl trafficking threat, announcing a series of indictments and sanctions against Chinese companies and executives blamed for importing the chemicals used to make the deadly drug.