Politics

White House begins the process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization

Key Points
  • The Trump administration has submitted to the U.N. secretary-general its notice to withdraw from the World Health Organization by July 6, 2021, a senior administration official confirmed to CNBC.
  • The notice to the United Nations was the first step in a yearlong process that will rely on several factors outside of Trump's control, including cooperation from Congress and the president's own reelection in November, neither of which are assured.
  • The move comes as coronavirus cases are again surging in the United States.
President Donald Trump speaks to journalists in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House July 2, 2020. The president addressed reports that the unemployment rate fell to 11.1%.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has submitted to the U.N. secretary-general its notice to withdraw from the World Health Organization by July 6, 2021, a senior administration official confirmed to CNBC.

The notice to the United Nations was the first step in a yearlong process that will rely on several factors outside of Trump's control, including cooperation from Congress and the president's own reelection in November, neither of which are assured.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he would have the U.S. rejoin the WHO on day one of his presidency, were he to defeat Trump this November.

The move comes as coronavirus cases are again surging in the United States. Nearly 3 million people in the nation have contracted the disease, while more than 130,000 have died, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. Worldwide, the virus has infected about 11.7 million and killed more than 540,000.

Whether the president has the unilateral authority under U.S. law to withdraw from the WHO, which is the health agency of the U.N., is the subject of scholarly debate, according to a June report from the Congressional Research Service. Answering that question would require a court to "confront several complicated issues of first impression," the nonpartisan organization found.

In April, Trump said that he had suspended U.S. funding to the organization pending a review, citing what he called "the World Health Organization's role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus."

A month later, he announced his intentions to leave the organization amid the coronavirus pandemic, citing what he called the WHO's misuse of funding and its cozy relationship with China. The coronavirus is widely believed to have originated from China.

"China has total control over the World Health Organization, despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying, which is approximately $450 million a year," Trump explained during remarks made in the Rose Garden.

"We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engage with them directly, but they have refused to act. 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," he added at the time.

On the heels of Trump's Rose Garden remarks, the State Department began redirecting funds from the World Health Organization to other global health organizations. 

"The President has been clear that the WHO needs to get its act together. That starts with demonstrating significant progress and the ability to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks with transparency and accountability," a State Department spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement to CNBC Tuesday evening. 

"The United States will continue efforts to reform the WHO and other international organizations to ensure they operate with transparency, fulfill their mandates, and hold governments accountable for their commitments under international law."

In an emailed statement to CNBC, a World Health Organization spokesperson confirmed reports of the formal notification from the White House but did not provide further details.

The decision to end the partnership between the United States and the WHO has drawn criticism from congressional lawmakers. Earlier this month, House Republicans argued that the United States would be able to have a bigger impact on the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic if the country remained part of the international group.

-- CNBC's Yelena Dzhanova and Tucker Higgins contributed to this report from New York.

Correction: Nearly 3 million people in the U.S. have contracted the coronavirus, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. An earlier version misstated the figure.

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