“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” Trump told reporters.
He claims “China has total control over the World Health Organization.”
“China’s cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has caused more than 100,000 American lives,” Trump added.
He alleged that officials in China “ignored their reporting obligations” to the WHO when the virus was first discovered in late 2019.
For weeks, Trump has been signalling a downhill trend in the relationship between the U.S. and China over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Americans. During an interview with Fox Business Network in mid-May, he said he was disappointed with China’s efforts to contain the virus.
“They should have never let this happen,” Trump said at the time. “So I make a great trade deal and now I say this doesn’t feel the same to me. The ink was barely dry and the plague came over. And it doesn’t feel the same to me.”
On May 18, Trump told the WHO that he plans on making a temporary funding freeze permanent – and reconsider the U.S.’ membership in the organization — unless “substantive improvements” were made. Those improvements were to be made within 30 days.
That letter accused the WHO of being “curiously insistent on praising China for its ‘transparency’” and failing to call for an independent probe into the origins of the virus.
On Friday, Trump continued to make claims about China and the coronavirus, calling for “transparency.”
He also alleged the Chinese government has used “illicit espionage” to obtain American industrial secrets.
“Today I will issue a proclamation to better secure our nation’s vital university research and to suspend the entry of certain foreign nationals from China who we have identified as potential security risks,” Trump said.
In response to Trump cutting ties with the WHO, Canada’s Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, issued a statement emphasizing the importance of multilateralism.
“We are only going to solve the most pressing global health challenges by working together,” she said.
“Now more than ever, a co-ordinated global response based on science and accurate data is essential.”
Her statement also mentioned advocating for “more transparency” within international organizations.
“Our government has been clear that a post-crisis review to assess lessons learned and improve global pandemic response must be made,” she said.
“That is why Canada co-sponsored an EU-led resolution at the World Health Assembly calling for an independent and comprehensive review of the WHO response to the pandemic at an appropriate time.”
Critics in the U.S. called the decision to cut funding misguided, as it would undermine an important institution leading vaccine development efforts and drug trials to address the pandemic.
“Severing ties with the World Health Organization serves no logical purpose and makes finding a way out of this public health crisis dramatically more challenging,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy told The Associated Press that leaving the WHO “castrates” the U.S.’ ability to “stop future pandemics.”
The WHO declined to comment on Trump’s announcement, according to The Associated Press.
He also announced removal of preferential treatment for Hong Kong, in the wake of China’s decision to pursue national security legislation for the city — a move that democracy activists and Western nations have warned could reduce Hong Kong’s freedoms.
“China has replaced its promised formula of one country, two systems with one country, one system,” Trump said.
“Therefore I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that gives Hong Kong different and special treatment.”
Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and has functioned with a high degree of autonomy ever since. China’s parliament endorsed the controversial new security law on Thursday, sparking protests in Hong Kong as well as condemnation by Canada, Britain, and Australia.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is concerned about the situation in Hong Kong and that China should engage in “constructive talks” with the city. But the country hasn’t said anything about taking concrete action if the new security bill is imposed.
Friday’s move will impact the “full range of agreements” between Hong Kong the U.S., including their extradition treaty and their export controls.
The U.S. State Department will also revise its travel advisory for Hong Kong “to reflect the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus.”
We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China,” he said.
Trump’s 10-minute press conference came the same day he posted a tweet that prompted Twitter to flag it as “glorifying violence,” in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
After delivering his remarks about China, the WHO and Hong Kong, Trump walked away without addressing the ongoing protests in Minnesota.
Later at a White House event, Trump said he had spoken with Floyd’s family. According to Reuters, he also said “we can’t allow” the protests in Minneapolis “to descend further into lawless anarchy and chaos.”
— With files by The Associated Press, Reuters, Global News staff