Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the Australian government will not follow America’s lead by cutting funding to the World Health Organisation.
US President Donald Trump said the WHO had “failed in its basic duty” in its response to the coronavirus outbreak, accusing the UN body of mismanaging and covering up the spread of the global pandemic after it first emerged in China.
“But we see the WHO playing an important role in our region.
“But that doesn’t mean we agree on them with everything.”
He lashed out at the WHO giving the green light to China reopening its wet markets, where the coronavirus is thought to have first started in 2019.
“It’s unbelievable, extraordinary that the WHO sees it fit that these wet markets continue – they were the source of outbreaks that killed people around the world,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“I would have thought the World Health Organisation – from the World Health Organisation’s perspective, protecting the health of the world is its first priority.”
Mr Frydenberg said that while Australia would not stop funding the WHO, the government was free to criticise the body’s decisions.
“And we will make those views known,” he added.
The treasurer will take part in a video conference with his G20 counterparts tonight to discuss the financial impact of the coronavirus.
Mr Frydenberg said they would “share notes on the various measures countries are putting in place to support economies and the challenges continuing to face communities across the globe”.
In its latest forecast, the International Monetary Fund predicted the world economy in 2020 will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The IMF said today that it expects the global economy to shrink three per cent this year — far worse than its 0.1 per cent dip in the Great Recession year of 2009 — before rebounding in 2021 with 5.8 per cent growth.
“These numbers are not surprising,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“They reflect the reality that we’re in. And the severe economic impact that economies around the world are facing as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.”
He stressed the importance of the $320 billion bailout financial packages announced by the government since the pandemic.
“Australia’s support packages are much greater than those from a number of countries around the world,” Mr Frydenberg said.
He cautioned against the relaxing of social distancing measures, taken by some other nations.
“We will continue to take actions necessary but we but are seeing progress on the health side by flattening the curve and the benefits of economic measures we have announced,” he said.
Mr Frydenberg said Australia’s message to beating the coronavirus were “clear and consistent”.
“We must continue to see the trade in essential items like health supplies at this time,” he said.
“We will also continue to support emerging economies and many of those developing economies who do not have the established health systems that we see in Australia and in other nations.
“These are messages together with the need for continued synchronised action by central banks, including the Reserve Bank of Australia, are vitally important to ensure that the Australian economy and the global economy get to the other side of the coronavirus.”
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