The US has formally notified the World Health Organisation of its withdrawal, despite widespread criticism and an almost complete lack of international support for the move in the midst of a pandemic.
Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw in May, accusing the WHO, without evidence, of withholding information, and of being too close to China. The letter confirming the move was delivered to the UN secretary general, António Guterres, officials confirmed on Tuesday.
A WHO official said: “We have received reports that the US has submitted formal notification to the UN secretary general that it is withdrawing from WHO effective 6 July 2021.”
Trump’s Democratic challenger for the presidency, Joe Biden, said he would return the US to the WHO before the year-long process of withdrawal was complete, reports The Guardian.
“Americans are safer when America is engaged in strengthening global health,” Biden said on Twitter. “On my first day as President, I will rejoin the @WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage.”
Democrats have also questioned the legality of the move without congressional approval.
But the administration has already begun looking for other channels to spend the $450m it pays annually in WHO membership dues and voluntary contributions. It is unclear what will happen to US officials who work with the global health body.
Jeff Merkley, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations subcommittee that oversees multilateral institutions, called the move “a huge win for China and a huge blow to the American people”.
“By pulling out of the WHO, President Trump is strengthening Chinese leadership and power, both within the WHO and more broadly within the international community,” Merkley said. “Cutting the United States out of the WHO in the middle of the worst global pandemic in a century makes Americans more vulnerable. By abandoning the efforts to control the virus abroad, we’re ensuring that far more Americans will get sick, either through foreign travelers coming to the US, or through Americans traveling abroad.”