Trump administration threatened Ecuador over its support of breastfeeding resolution

Cheryl Sanders
July 10, 2018

Maggie Haberman, a White House reporter for the Times, noted in a tweet on Monday that after calling the newspaper's report false, Trump confirmed its central premise: that his administration opposed the resolution.

According to the Times report on Sunday based on interviews with dozens of meeting participants, United States negotiations in Geneva objected to the resolution encouraging breastfeeding around the world and allegedly resorted to intimidation tactics to bully other countries into dropping it.

"The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out", the president tweeted. "Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty".

According to the New York Times article, the American delegation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva tried to threaten and bully poorer countries in Africa and Latin America not to introduce the resolution, which was based on decades of widely-accepted research that says mother's milk is healthiest for children and that nations should try to limit misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Ecuador was slated to introduce the breastfeeding resolution, but after the USA threatened to "unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid", according to the newspaper, Ecuador "quickly acquiesced".

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, in an email to the Times, defended the administration's stance. "They should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies".

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. Ecuador quickly dropped its support for the resolution.

It was only when Russian Federation introduced the resolution that American officials backed off.

The Trump administration appeared to side with companies manufacturing infant formulas whose sales are threatened by women breastfeeding their newborns. It also pushed, successfully, to get statements supporting soda taxes removed from guidelines for countries dealing with skyrocketing obesity rates.

Every two years the World Health Assembly convenes and discusses public health issues. Nevertheless, the United States delegation sought to wear down the other participants through procedural maneuvers in a series of meetings that stretched on for two days, an unexpectedly long period. A 2016 study found that "the deaths of 823,000 children and 20,000 mothers each year could be averted through universal breastfeeding, along with economic savings of $300 billion [USD]".

The United States suggested a shorter and more streamlined resolution that encouraged promoting exclusive breastfeeding as well as global initiatives to encourage breastfeeding in hospitals. So when USA representatives launched their surprise attack, the world could only read it as open support for the $70 billion formula industry, whose sales have been tapering off.

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