President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the United States was terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization as he laid down the gauntlet against China.
‘We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and directing those funds to worldwide and deserving, urgent global public health needs,’ he said during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.
He blamed the move on China not being transparent enough about the ‘Wuhan’ virus, which is what he has called the coronavirus, and slammed Beijing’s over reach in Hong Kong.
Trump did not take questions at the Friday afternoon event, which the White House billed at a news conference. His less than 10 minutes of remarks were focused exclusively on the WHO, China and Hong Kong.
He ignored the other major news of the day: the death of George Floyd, the black Minnesota man who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck. Trump’s tweets on the matter were muzzled by Twitter, which said they violated the company’s policy against ‘inciting violence.’ Trump had warned the ‘thugs’ protesting in Minneapolis he would send in the National Guard, adding that ‘looting leads to shooting.’
Trump tried to explain his words in another round of tweets shortly before his event – where reporters were expected to quiz him on it – by saying he was simply stating a fact and not making a threat.
He kept his event focused on China, but held back on announcing tough new sanctions on launching a full-scale trade war, keeping his punishment focused on the WHO.
‘China has total control over the World Health Organization, despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying, which is approximately $450 million a year. We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engage with them directly, but they have refused to act,’ Trump said.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu has defended his agency’s work and called for the world to come together to battle the coronavirus.
Trump has targeted China since he took office, starting a trade war with Beijing.
The president also has been a frequent critic of the WHO’s relationship with China, complaining the group didn’t do enough to push that country to release information about the coroanvirus, which was first detected in Wuhan.
China’s cover-up 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,’ he said.
Trump also announced Hong Kong’s role as a global financial center is at risk after China insisted on imposing a strict political crackdown of the territory.
‘I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment,’ he said.
‘We will be revising the state departments’ travel advisory for Hong Kong to reflect the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus. We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China,’ he added.
The World Health Organization became a target of President Trump in his blame game as he points the finger for the devastating effects of the coronavirus – an economic down turn and over 100,000 American deaths – at everyone but his administration. Also feeling Trump’s fury has been China, the states, governors and the Democrats.
The president has called it ‘China-centric’ and complained they ‘missed the call’ when it came to the coronavirus.
Trump’s main beef with the United Nations health group is that leadership there said it wasn’t necessary to ban travelers coming in from China as the coronavirus started spreading beyond Wuhan, where it originated.
The president has bragged that his early ban of some travelers from China kept it from being a greater threat to the U.S.
Trump has followed the lead of prominent conservatives in complaining that the WHO has been too friendly to China during the coronavirus crisis.
The WHO is funded in two ways – through assessed contributions and voluntary contributions. The U.S. is its largest contributor.
The assessed contributions, which are like dues to the organization, are calculated by looking at a country’s wealth and population.
In its February budget proposal, the Trump administration called for slashing the U.S. contribution to the WHO in half from the previous fiscal year – from $122.6 million to $57.9 million.
While the U.S. pays the most in assessed contributions, that full pot of money has only accounted for less than 25 per cent of WHO’s haul over the past few years.
However, Americans NGOs and charity organizations, along with taxpayer dollars, do make up the biggest chunk of the WHO’s funding.
On January 31, the Trump administration announced travel restrictions on people coming from China due to the outbreak.
But WHO said such bans were not needed, noting that ‘travel bans to affected areas or denial of entry to passengers coming from affected areas are usually not effective in preventing the importation’ of coronavirus cases, but may instead ‘have a significant economic and social impact.’
And the group noted that ‘restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions.’
‘Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on,’ Trump tweeted in early April when he first began to target the WHO.
‘Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?’ the president asked.