Sunday, July 08, 2018
"America First" means, "do what we say or else"
This story encapsulates everything horrible about the Trump administration's approach to the world.
A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.
Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother’s milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.
Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.
American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.
When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.
The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.
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The showdown over the issue was recounted by more than a dozen participants from several countries, many of whom requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the United States.
Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.
“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, who has attended meetings of the assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, since the late 1980s.
“What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on best way to protect infant and young child health,” she said.
In the end, the Americans’ efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.
Jesus. Can they be any more transparent?
For people who thought he was going to be an isolationist and withdraw behind walls, this should come as a wake up call. Trump is a bully, not a peacenik. And that is obvious after observing him for more than five minutes.
The intensity of the administration’s opposition to the breast-feeding resolution stunned public health officials and foreign diplomats, who described it as a marked contrast to the Obama administration, which largely supported W.H.O.’s longstanding policy of encouraging breast-feeding.
During the deliberations, some American delegates even suggested the United States might cut its contribution the W.H.O., several negotiators said. Washington is the single largest contributor to the health organization, providing $845 million, or roughly 15 percent of its budget, last year.
The confrontation was the latest example of the Trump administration siding with corporate interests on numerous public health and environmental issues.
In talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Americans have been pushing for language that would limit the ability of Canada, Mexico and the United States to put warning labels on junk food and sugary beverages, according to a draft of the proposal reviewed by The New York Times.
During the same Geneva meeting where the breast-feeding resolution was debated, the United States succeeded in removing statements supporting soda taxes from a document that advises countries grappling with soaring rates of obesity.
The Americans also sought, unsuccessfully, to thwart a W.H.O. effort aimed at helping poor countries obtain access to lifesaving medicines. Washington, supporting the pharmaceutical industry, has long resisted calls to modify patent laws as a way of increasing drug availability in the developing world, but health advocates say the Trump administration has ratcheted up its opposition to such efforts.
The delegation’s actions in Geneva are in keeping with the tactics of an administration that has been upending alliances and long-established practices across a range of multilateral organizations, from the Paris climate accord to the Iran nuclear deal to Nafta.
Ilona Kickbusch, director of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, said there was a growing fear that the Trump administration could cause lasting damage to international health institutions like the W.H.O. that have been vital in containing epidemics like Ebola and the rising death toll from diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the developing world.
“It’s making everyone very nervous, because if you can’t agree on health multilateralism, what kind of multilateralism can you agree on?” Ms. Kickbusch asked.
Trump has decided to blow up every institution that was built before he became president because he's too goddamn dumb to understand anything but blowing things up. He wants to pal around with fellow autocratic oligarchs so they can split up the spoils.
He will, of course, demand the largest share so I guess we should all be waving the flag and saying hurrah.
digby 7/08/2018 11:00:00 AM