The U.S., Canada and Mexico have pledged enhanced coordination measures to combat the rise of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which the countries have jointly recognized as the foremost drug threat in North America.
In a joint statement issued Friday following the first meeting of the Trilateral Fentanyl Committee, the three countries announced four specific areas of coordination focused on current and emerging drugs, demand for drugs, drug trafficking and emerging finance.
“The three North American governments will work together to disrupt the global transfer, facilitation, and supply of illicit fentanyl, precursor chemicals, and the equipment (such as pill presses) used in their illicit production before they reach the Western Hemisphere,” the committee said in a statement.
President Biden, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formed the trilateral group during the North American Leaders’ Summit in January.
The group announced the new measures as the Justice Department charged several leaders of the Sinaloa cartel on Friday for their alleged roles in the global supply of illicit fentanyl.
Charges filed in New York, Illinois and D.C. target Mexican criminal traffickers who manufacture fentanyl, often with the use of Chinese precursor chemicals, and then distribute them in the U.S. with deadly results.
Roughly 70,000 of the 107,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. were linked at least in part to fentanyl in 2021, the most recent year for which complete data is available. The U.S. government says nearly all of the fentanyl supply flows out of Mexico, often in the form of counterfeit pills.
Friday’s charges were the result of an intensive operation in which Drug Enforcement Administration agents infiltrated the Sinaloa cartel and the “Chapitos” drug network to gain access to the highest levels of leadership.
Officials said charges were filed against over two dozen defendants.
The Justice Department said seven of the defendants are in custody and awaiting extradition.
The Treasury Department also announced sanctions on Friday against two companies and five persons for their alleged involvement in providing precursor chemicals needed to make illicit fentanyl.