Following through on a threat he made in May, the Trump administration on Tuesday notified the United States Congress that it is formally withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced the move on Twitter.
“Congress received notification that POTUS officially withdrew the U.S. from the @WHO in the midst of a pandemic. To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests – it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” he wrote.
A State Department official confirmed to CNN that the administration has also sent a notice to the secretary-general of the United Nations stating its intention to withdraw effective July 6, 2021. The letter triggers a one-year timeline for the move.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticised the WHO, claiming that China has “total control” over the organisation and allowed itself to be mislead during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus first emerged in the Wuhan province of China.
“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization,” Trump said in late May.
He said the US contributes about $450m to the WHO while China provides about $40m, adding that the US will be “redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs”.
In a May letter to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump threatened to halt funding altogether if it does not commit to reforms within 30 days.
The WHO has since bowed to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to the pandemic, a probe that is expected to shed light on the origins of the virus and China’s early handling of the outbreak.
Observers noted that because the process takes one year to complete, a successor to Trump could conceivably reverse the decision if he is not re-elected in the November general election in the US.