In 4-page stinker to Tedros over China link, Trump opens door to walk out of WHO

In his four-page letter, Trump detailed every occasion since December last when, according to the US, the WHO did not act on the available information, made misleading claims or gave the world bad advice.
President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, US.(REUTERS)
President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, US.(REUTERS)
Updated on May 19, 2020 03:55 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to walk out of the World Health Organisation, accusing the Tedros Adhanom-led global health body chief of acting at China’s behest and mismanaging the Covid-19 pandemic in the early stages.

“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world. The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” Trump said in a letter to Tedros Adhanom.

In his four-page letter, Trump detailed every occasion since December last when, according to the US, the WHO did not act on the available information, made misleading claims or gave the world bad advice.

WHEN TRUMP HIT THE EJECT BUTTON

The US quit the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) accusing the UN agency of anti-Israel bias.

Donald Trump administration pulled out the US from United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2018 accusing the body of being a “hypocritical and self-serving” besides holding a chronic bias against Israel

The US has started the process to exit from 2015 Paris climate agreement on grounds that staying in the global pact hurts the United States’ economic competitiveness. Trump announced his intention to exit the pact in 2017

Donald Trump set a October 2019 deadline to exit the Universal Postal Union over postal rates but stayed put after the organisation arrived at a last-minute compromise last year.

Trump gave Tedros Adhanom 30 days to commit to major substantive improvements, warning that if the WHO doesn’t deliver on this, “I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the WHO permanent and reconsider our membership”.

Trump’s letter was sent hours after the WHO’s policy making body began its meeting on Monday. At this meeting, China, which had opposed a probe into the origin of the virus that has killed nearly 3.2 lakh people and infected millions across the world, was forced to back down. The formal resolution is expected to be passed today.

Trump’s letter did not spell out the improvements or reforms that he was looking for. “My administration has already started discussions with you on how to reform the organisation,” he wrote.

Also Read: ‘The only way forward for WHO is...’: Full text of Trump’s letter to WHO chief

Diplomats in Washington and Geneva told Hindustan Times that Trump’s letter, which had put the WHO chief on notice, appeared to be prepping the ground for a possible exit from the WHO.

 Watch: Donald Trump threatens to permanently halt funding to WHO

It is argued that the WHO could not carry out any substantive reforms in a rush. The WHA, which has representatives of 194-member nations, is meeting over video conference for a truncated session that is to end in a few hours.

“Any major reform, like the one the US President appears to be looking for, can only be made with the approval of the general body, the WHA,” a diplomat said.

To be sure, this isn’t the first time that the Trump administration has spoken about walking out of the UN’s health body. But the letter to the WHO boss makes the threat formal.

Donald Trump does have a track record of pulling the United States out of international agreements and organisations when he doesn’t get his way. Trump has already led the US out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Human Rights Council and last year, came close to backing out of the Universal Postal Union.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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