SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK:China was accused of being the main source of a powerful painkiller 50 times stronger than heroin that has caused record overdose deaths in the United States.

The issue has figured in trade talks between the United States and China, with Beijing promising to list any type of fentanyl when presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a tariff truce in December.

Designating all fentanyl analogues as controlled substances from May 1 aims to prevent smugglers from skirting the law by changing formulas to make drugs similar to the painkiller.

Liu outlined further work China would undertake, including inspections of key bio-medical and chemical industrial parks, cleaning up drug-related information online and cutting off criminals’ online communication channels.

Chinese authorities will also urge courier companies to implement real-name registration for parcels, stepping up customs checks for high-risk international packages and enhancing enforcement co-operation. Sellers often ship fentanyl via express package services.

These are big steps which would have a significant impact, said Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

China produces 85 percent of the world’s synthetic opioids, he said.