Trump’s efforts to boost his polling numbers among Republican voters focus largely on attacking scapegoats such as international organizations, news media, Democrats — and China. The U.S. president and his allies in Congress and Fox News have been campaigning against Beijing, issuing allegations for Trump to claim as reasons for more investigation.
World leaders and public health authorities last week denounced Trump’s decision to halt funding for WHO just as it coordinates global efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a White House press briefing, Trump said he was halting all further payments to WHO while his administration spends between 60 to 90 days reviewing the U.N. health agency’s role in “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.”
Trump said he was cutting off U.S. payments to WHO for failing to do enough to stop the virus from spreading when it was first detected in China. He has repeatedly insisted on calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” to emphasize its origin.
“The WHO failed in its basic duty and must be held accountable,” Trump said. “This is an evaluation period, but in the meantime, we’re putting a hold on all funds going to World Health.”
The Trump administration’s criticism hinges on allegations that WHO withheld information in January about what was going on in China that could have helped U.S. officials better respond. However, American researchers posted at the U.N. health agency’s headquarters in Geneva were relaying real-time information about China back to U.S. officials in January, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
WHO relies mainly on contributions from 194 member nations and private organizations. About 20 percent of its budget comes from member nations’ mandatory dues; the rest comes from voluntary donations from other international organizations and philanthropic foundations, along with private sector and partner donations.
The United States, United Kingdom, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are the top supporters. The United States contributes US$450 million a year — including US$115 million in mandatory dues — towards WHO’s more than US$4 billion budget, according to WHO budget figures. China contributes US$86 million a year, including US$57 million in mandatory dues.
The East-West clash likely will come further into focus next month at the World Health Assembly, WHO’s decision-making body, where Australia is expected to seek an international inquiry into Chinese origins of the virus and reported efforts to downplay or cover it up. China has strongly opposed such an effort.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison is asking the Trump administration along with leaders in France and Germany to push for WHO’s technical advisers and inspectors to gain powers to immediately enter any country where a significant virus outbreak is detected.