The Trump administration will decline to pay tens of millions of dollars owed to the World Health Organization (WHO) in annual dues as part of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the global body, which is scheduled for next year.
The Associated Press reported that the U.S. will not pay just over $60 million owed in 2020 dues to the organization, and Reuters reported that the decision also will affect about $19 million still owed in 2019 dues.
A decision to forgo the payments comes as the Trump administration has hammered the WHO for months over supposedly bowing to China’s wishes and essentially acting as a PR shop for China’s government during the early stages of the pandemic while Chinese officials allegedly stymied international health experts from learning about the virus.
In a statement, a WHO spokesperson said the agency would review its options and encourage the U.S. to reverse course.
“We refer you to our previous statements of regret regarding the U.S. decision to withdraw. We await further details, which we will consider carefully,” the spokesperson told Reuters.
The president previously moved earlier this year to suspend congressional funding to the agency, a move which at the time was sharply criticized by medical groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and congressional Democrats, who called it illegal.
Some Democrats have agreed with much of the president’s criticism of the WHO but have warned separately that defunding the organization will only increase China’s influence over the global health body.
“Clearly, multiple failures at both the national and international level led to the pandemic disaster that we are facing today,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told The Hill in April.
“Cutting back on America’s support and involvement will mean that the United States does not have a full seat at the table during these discussions, and will only magnify the already troubling influence of China at the WHO,” he added at the time.