Rep. Chris Smith Plans Congressional Hearing on W.H.O. Pandemic Accord Talks

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FRANCES MARTEL 23 May 2023

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) announced on Monday he will chair a Congressional hearing in the near future on negotiations at the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) to adopt a “pandemic accord,” an international legal document that could bind American public health efforts beholden to the United Nations, potentially eroding sovereignty.

The W.H.O. is hosting its annual World Health Assembly this week, where it sets a budget and priorities for the next year.

The administration of leftist President Joe Biden is in attendance and participating in negotiations on the pandemic accord. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra met with W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday; according to Tedros, the two specifically discussed the pandemic accord and America’s “critical role in global health security.”

“I urge you to deliver the pandemic accord on time, as a generational commitment. The next pandemic will not wait for us. We must be ready,” Tedros told World Health Assembly attendees during his opening remarks on Monday.

Tedros has been pressuring the world to adopt a pandemic accord – a treaty, covenant, or other binding international legal document – since at least 2021 following the onset of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. An extensive “zero draft,” a preliminary document, was published in February, prompting much debate within the W.H.O. Drafting parties disagreed significantly on its contents and also failed to agree on what kind of document the zero draft was, so they named it the “W.H.O. convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response,” or “WHO CA+”.

Biden’s envoy in the negotiations, Pamela Hamamoto, insisted in March that his administration is “committed to the Pandemic Accord, to form a major component of the global health architecture for generations to come,” despite the disagreements.

Rep. Smith said on Monday that Congressional hearings on the issue were necessary because the Biden administration had not been transparent as to what it was “committed” to bringing America into.

“The American people have a right to know exactly what the Biden Administration is negotiating at the W.H.O., especially as the President remains silent and fails to reassure us that he will protect our Constitution from bureaucrats at this troubled United Nations body,” Rep. Smith said. The Congressman – who chairs the House Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee and thus has the power to call a hearing – also objected to specifics in the zero draft that he warned could erode American sovereignty over its own healthcare infrastructure.

The hearing, the Congressman noted, was necessary as his attempts to question Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the contents of the “zero draft” at a hearing in March resulted in no clarity. At the time, Rep. Smith questioned him on specific provisions in the draft he found alarming.

“The zero-draft WHO pandemic treaty starts off with very harsh criticism of the United States and the international community by calling it a ‘catastrophic failure of the international community in showing solidarity and equity in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic,’” Rep. Smith noted. “Article 4 of the treaty pays lip service to sovereignty and then completely overcomes that lip service by saying, ‘provided that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to their peoples and other countries,’ which empowers the W.H.O. to step in and prescribe what each country would do.”

Rep. Smith also noted that the “zero draft” would force America “to provide 20 percent of our medical supplies – including tests, vaccines, medications and the like—to the W.H.O.”

Hamamoto, the Biden administration pandemic accord envoy, did object at the W.H.O.’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) to the draft’s demands that wealthy nations “bear, where appropriate, a commensurate degree of differentiated responsibility” financially and in terms of medical resources, insisting the draft did not sufficiently provide “equity.”

The pandemic accord would be a separate document from the International Health Regulations (IHR), which the Biden administration successfully lobbied to amend during last year’s World Health Assembly to give the W.H.O. greater power over public health emergencies.

File/Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China. (Naohiko Hatta – Pool/Getty Images)

The amendments allow the director-general to declare epidemics, pandemics, and other public health emergencies without having to “consult with and attempt to obtain verification from the State Party in whose territory the event is allegedly occurring.” Supporters of the amendments argued that they were necessary given China’s deliberate lack of transparency and destruction of evidence surrounding the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, but opponents noted that the provisions apply to all countries and allow the W.H.O. to override the sovereignty of the governments involved.

The Biden administration’s moves regarding the IHR also increased concerns surrounding the negotiations around the pandemic accord. In March, Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI) introduced a bill to prevent Biden from unilaterally adopting the pandemic accord, declaring the ultimate form of the pandemic accord a “treaty … requir[ing] the advice and consent of the Senate, with two-thirds of Senators concurring.”

“Under absolutely no circumstances should the Biden Administration surrender American sovereignty to the World Health Organization,” Rep. Smith said on Monday, “and allow the voice of the American people and consent of the governed to be subjugated to dictates of an agenda-driven global administrative bureaucracy.”

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