Trump threatens to pull out of WHO

Trump threatens to pull out of WHO
US President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus disease pandemic meeting in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington.
Washington, May 19 (IANS) | Publish Date: 5/19/2020 9:57:01 AM IST

Accusing the World Health Organization (WHO) of “alarming lack of independence from” China, US President Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of the agency and end its funding if it did not institute reforms within a month and end its subservience.

In a four-page letter addressed to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that he posted Monday night on Twitter, Trump said: “The repeated missteps by you and your organisation in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly to the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organization is only if it can demonstrate its independence from China.”

Trump’s warning came in the middle of the annual meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, that is being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US paid $553 million of the WHO’s $6 billion budget last year.

China paid only $43 million but its President Xi Jinping has said that Beijing would contribute $2 billion to its campaign against COVID-19.

Last month, Trump had ordered a freeze on US contributions to the WHO saying it had spread misinformation about the pandemic that originated in China.

Trump listed in his letter a chronology of what he said were a series of errors by the organisation’s leadership because of its pliancy to China that have led to the explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He accused Tedros of misleading the world by asserting on February 3 that the chances of COVID-19 going anywhere outside China were “very low” and that travel restrictions were “causing more harm than good”.

He said that Tedros’ position “bolstered” China’s campaign to end or prevent travel restrictions.

While China was preventing international inquiry into the pandemic’s origins, destroying samples of the virus and refusing to share data, Trump said that Tedros was praising its transparency.

He warned that if there were not “substantive improvements” within the next 30 days, he would make the temporary freeze of funding permanent.

Trump’s funding freeze has been criticised by Democrats as leading to lessening of Washington’s global standing and endangering the campaign against COVID-19.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “dangerous, illegal” and said that it “will be swiftly challenged” because Congress had allocated the money.

EU backs WHO after Trump’s threat

 The European Union (EU) backed the World Health Organisation and multilateral efforts to fight the coronavirus on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump threatened to quit the global agency.

“This is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger pointing or for undermining multilateral cooperation,” European foreign affairs spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson told reporters.

The EU has sponsored a motion at Tuesday’s session of the WHO’s annual assembly to urge an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the pandemic.

And the spokeswoman said, “The European Union backs the WHO in its efforts to contain and mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak and has already provided additional funding to support these efforts.”

Not for the first time, this puts Brussels in opposition to Washington, where Trump has accused the UN health agency of being too close to China and of being slow to react to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Beijing has furiously denied the US allegations that it played down the threat and Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated at the World Health Assembly that his nation had been “transparent” throughout the crisis.

Brussels is backing an independent inquiry into how the epidemic erupted and spread, but has tried to lead an international, multilateral response to the crisis and raise funds for vaccine research.


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