Stage set for US exit from WHO in July 2021

World | REUTERS 9 Jul 2020

The United States will leave the World Health Organization on July 6, 2021, the United Nations said, after receiving notification of the decision by President Donald Trump, who has accused the agency of becoming a puppet for China during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, who announced the decision over a month ago, has to give one-year notice of the US withdrawal from the Geneva-based body and pay all Washington's dues under a 1948 joint resolution of the US Congress. The United States currently owes the WHO more than US$200 million (HK$1.54 billion) in assessed contributions, according to the WHO website.

China criticized the planned withdrawal, saying that the move will have grave implications for developing countries.

Beijing was urging the international community to step up support for the WHO, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

After more than 70 years of membership, the United States moved to quit the WHO amid escalating tensions with China over the coronavirus pandemic. The virus first emerged in Wuhan late last year.

The WHO, under its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has denied assertions by Trump that it promoted Chinese "disinformation" about the virus.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi described Trump's official withdrawal as "an act of true senselessness as WHO coordinates the global fight against Covid-19."

"With millions of lives at risk, the President is crippling the international effort to defeat the virus," she said.

So far there have been nearly 12 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 540,000 known deaths worldwide, according to a tally, with about 25 percent of both cases and deaths in the United States.

Trump's decision could be overturned before it takes effect if he is defeated by his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in a November election.

Trump had halted funding for the 194-member organization in April, then in a May 18 letter gave the WHO 30 days to commit to reforms. He announced the United States would quit less than two weeks later.

Since taking office, Trump has also quit the UN Human Rights Council, the UN cultural agency, a global accord to tackle climate change and the Iran nuclear deal. He has also cut funding for the UN population fund.

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