Beijing warns it is ‘seriously concerned’ about US decision to suspend $500m WHO funding after Donald Trump accused the health body of ‘accelerating the pandemic’ by opposing his China travel ban
- President Trump said Tuesday he will be freezing all funding from the US to the World Health Organization
- He accused the WHO of ‘severely mismanaging’ the pandemic, singling out the call to oppose travel bans
- China said it has ‘serious concerns’ about the decision, which will ‘undermine cooperation against the virus’
- US is the single largest contributor to the WHO, accounting for 15 per cent of funds over the last two years
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
By By NIKKI SCHWAB,
(dailymail)—China has warned it has ‘serious concerns’ after Donald Trump suspended all US funding to the World Health Organization for what he called ‘its role in severely mismanaging the spread of coronavirus’.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for Beijing’s foreign ministry, said the global battle against the pandemic is at a ‘critical moment’ and that suspending funding will ‘undermine international cooperation against the epidemic.’
His warning came after President Trump said the US with withhold some $500million in WHO funding while an investigation into its handling of the pandemic is carried out.
Trump singled out what he called the WHO’s ‘dangerous and costly decision’ to argue against international travel bans to combat the pandemic.
While praising his own decision to limit travel to and from China on January 31 – a month after the first cases of the disease were reported – Trump added: ‘Other nations and regions who followed WHO guidelines and kept their borders open to China, accelerated the pandemic all around the world.
‘The decision of other major countries to keep travel open was one of the great tragedies and missed opportunities from the early days. The WHO’s attack on travel restrictions put political correctness above lifesaving measures.’
The US is the largest single contributor to the WHO, paying in some $893million between 2018 and 2019 which made up around 15 per cent of the agency’s total budget during that period.
The World Health Organization and its head Tedros Ghebreyesus (left), has come in for criticism over its handling of the pandemic, including accusations that it parroted Chinese government propaganda and was too quick to praise the regime (pictured right, Chinese leader Xi Jinping)
So far in 2020 the US has agreed to pay some $57million in assessed contributions to the WHO – the largest single payment by a country.
The Trump administration has been fighting to reduce spending on foreign aid budgets including contributions to the WHO for at least three years, Foreign Policy reported, but had been repeatedly slapped down by Congress.
Announcing the move to suspend funding Tuesday, Trump suggested the WHO had been doing the bidding of China, where the coronavirus outbreak began before spreading to the United States.
Trump pointed to the funding disparities between the two countries, which both fund the WHO.
The president said while American taxpayers pay around $400 to $500 million annually to the WHO, China pays a 10th of that, at around $40 million a year.
China has described Trump’s move to withhold funding as ‘seriously concerning’.
Yet since last week Trump has blasted the WHO for being too China-centric, a point he continued to make Tuesday.
‘The WHO pushed China’s misinformation about the virus saying it was not communicable and there was no need for travel bans,’ Trump said.
He said other countries who followed WHO’s advice experienced ‘great tragedies and missed opportunities from the early days.’
Meanwhile, he credited his decision to ban flights from China in late January with saving an ‘untold number of lives.’
At the briefing, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins brought up how Trump is punishing the WHO for praising China’s transparency when he, too, praised China’s transparency.
Several days before Trump decided to announce the partial travel ban, he praised China’s effort on Twitter.
‘China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency,’ Trump wrote on January 24. ‘It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!’
Trump sporadically praised China through February and March as well – while also occasionally calling coronavirus the ‘China virus.’
On Tuesday when asked if he was being hypocritical, Trump answered, ‘I’m always respectful of China,’ before bringing up the amount of money he believed he brought in because of the trade war, brushing off the question.
Prseident Trump praised China’s effort to combat the coronavirus in late January and through February and March. He’s pointed to WHO praising China as a reason for pausing the organization’s funding
Last week Trump teased that he might halt funds, but then walked back that threat when a reporter asked if that would be a smart move mid-global pandemic.
‘I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but I’m going to look at it,’ Trump said then.
But on Tuesday, he leaned in.
‘For the time we will redirect global health and directly work with others. All of the aid that we send will be discussed … with very powerful and influential and smart groups, medically, politically and every other way,’ Trump said. ‘And we’ll be discussing it with other countries and global health partners what we do with all that money that goes to WHO.’
‘And maybe WHO will reform and maybe they won’t,’ Trump said.
The WHO generally doesn’t support travel bans because it could lead countries to under-report cases of disease and destabilize economies, while a country is trying to fight an epidemic.
‘Although travel restrictions may intuitively seem like the right thing to do, this is not something that WHO usually recommends,’ said Tarik Jašarević, a WHO spokesperson, when discussing the China travel ban in late January, when Trump put the U.S. ban in place.
‘This is because of the social disruption they cause and the intensive use of resources required,’ Jašarević said.
Trump didn’t say that he necessarily thought WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus should be replaced, as several Republican Senate allies of the president have called for.
‘We’re doing an investigation,’ the president answered to a question about a Tedros ouster. ‘I don’t know the gentleman, but I know there’s been problems.’
Democrats slammed Trump for the move, saying this was not the time to stop cash for health.
Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) April 15, 2020