The United States formally notified the World Health Organization of its withdrawal, despite widespread criticism and the near-complete lack of international support for the measure amid a pandemic.
Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw in May, accusing the WHO, without evidence, of withholding information and being too close to China. The letter confirming the move was delivered to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, officials confirmed Tuesday.
A WHO official said: “We have received reports that the United States has submitted a formal notification to the UN secretary-general that it will withdraw from WHO as of July 6, 2021.”
Trump’s Democratic challenger for the presidency, Joe Biden, said he would return the United States to WHO before the one-year withdrawal process is complete.
“Americans are safer when the United States is committed to strengthening global health,” Biden said on Twitter. “On my first day as president, I will meet @WHO and reestablish our leadership on the world stage.”
Democrats have also questioned the legality of the measure without Congress’s approval.
But the administration has already begun looking for other channels to spend the $ 450 million it pays annually in WHO membership dues and voluntary contributions. It is unclear what will happen to US officials working with the global health agency.
Jeff Merkley, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign affairs subcommittee that oversees multilateral institutions, called the move “a great victory for China and a great blow to the American people.”
“By retiring from the WHO, President Trump is strengthening China’s leadership and power, both within WHO and more broadly within the international community,” said Merkley. Eliminating the United States from WHO amid the worst global pandemic in a century makes Americans more vulnerable. By abandoning efforts to control the virus abroad, we ensure that many more Americans become ill, either through foreign travelers coming to the US or through Americans traveling abroad. “
Republican members of Congress have also urged Trump to keep the United States within WHO to support reform. The administration received almost no support for withdrawing from U.S. allies, with the exception of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who confirmed that he had tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday.
The formal recall was confirmed when the number of coronavirus cases in the US approached 3 million, with 130,000 deaths so far.
The White House coordinator on the coronavirus response, Deborah Birx, said the administration had been surprised by the spread among younger Americans.
“I think none of us really anticipated the amount of community outreach that started in our 18-35 age group and I think this is an age group that was so good and so disciplined during March and April, but when they saw people on social media, they all went out, ”said Birx at a round table with foreign ambassadors and high-ranking diplomats organized by the Atlantic Council.
Birx left the online meeting before news of the formal withdrawal came. None of the foreign diplomats who participated supported the measure.
“While criticism is welcome … we believe that it is not a good idea to hinder the organization, while we are in full swing of this pandemic,” said German deputy mission director Ricklef Beutin.