The United States is cutting ties with the World Health Organization (WHO).
President Donald Trump announced during a press conference on Friday, May 29 that the United States will be terminating its relationship with the organization, which is responsible for coordinating international health issues within the United Nations system.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the WHO for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-April, he froze the United States’ payments to the organization. On May 18, Trump sent a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, threatening to permanently freeze funding and “reconsider our membership in the organization.” He wrote that he “cannot allow American taxpayer dollars to continue to finance an organization that, in its present state, is so clearly not serving America’s interests.”
During the press conference, he leveled blame at China, accusing the country of allowing the novel coronavirus to spread throughout the world.
“The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government. China’s coverup of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has cost more than 100,000 American lives and over a million lives worldwide,” Trump said.
Trump brought up the topic of fairness multiple times during the conference. He claimed that China has “total control” of the World Health Organization despite only paying $40 million in dues. Before freezing funding to WHO, the United States was the largest individual donor to the organization. The U.S. government contributed $237 million in assessed fees – or membership dues – to WHO as well as $656 million in voluntary monies for specific programs.
The United States’ assessed fees account for 22 percent of the WHO’s total assessed fees, while China contributes approximately 12 percent. China’s gross assessment for 2020-21 was $129,286,530 while the United States’ assessment was $236,911,350.
According to an NPR report, the United States was late on payments to the World Health Organization when Trump froze payments in March. A WHO balance sheet dated April 30, 2020 shows that the United States has outstanding payments of $99,168,375.
Trump stated that the United States would be “redirecting” the funding toward other organizations. He did not specify which organizations or causes would be supported.
“They have refused to act. Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving, urgent global public health needs,” he said.
Before announcing the termination of the WHO relationship, Trump lambasted China for its “misconduct,” particularly in regards to economic matters. He told reporters that his administration had negotiations with the Chinese government for “fair and reciprocal treatment.” He did not elaborate on these negotiations but presumably refer to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.
“China’s pattern of misconduct is well-known. For decades, they have ripped off the United States like no one has ever done before. Hundreds of billions of dollars a year were lost dealing with China, especially over the years during the prior administration,” he said. “China raided our factories, off-shored our jobs, gutted our industries, stole our intellectual properties and violated their commitments under the World Trade Organization.”
“This pandemic has underscored the crucial importance of building up America’s economic independence, reshoring our critical supplies chains and protecting America’s scientific and technological advancements.”
Image courtesy of the White House. Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen