News Coronavirus PM and Trump swap notes on virus, China and WHO
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PM and Trump swap notes on virus, China and WHO

Scott Morrison and US President Donald Trump have discussed the coronavirus, the World Health Organisation's response and China's transparency. Photo: AAP
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The Prime Minister has spoken to Donald Trump about the economic impacts of coronavirus and performance of the World Health Organisation.

Scott Morrison and the US President on Wednesday discussed the need for transparency, in a clear reference to China, and the need to improve global institutions like the WHO in their response to pandemics.

Their discussion comes amid statements from WHO pointedly stating that all available evidence suggested coronavirus originated in animals in China late in 2019 and was not manipulated or produced in a laboratory.

Mr Morrison has been scathing of the United Nations agency for its handling of COVID-19 after it criticised Australia for closing its borders to Chinese tourists and took two weeks longer to declare a pandemic.

Mr Morrison has also challenged the WHO decision to support China reopening wet markets, the likely cause of the deadly disease.

Australian officials have been vocal in their criticisms of WHO and China’s openness on the origins of the coronavirus.

Federal cabinet members Josh Frydenberg, Peter Dutton and Marise Payne have joined the Prime Minister in applying pressure.

China has responded to the criticism by accusing Mr Dutton of “receiving instructions from Washington” in line with the US ‘propaganda war’.

Mr Frydenberg hit back at China’s criticism as ‘unjustified’.

Mr Trump halted US funding to the WHO last week, and said his government was trying to determine whether the virus emanated from a lab in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

The Prime Minister also raised with Mr Trump Australia’s focus on supporting countries in the Pacific and South-East Asia, where the US also holds a keen strategic interest.

He also spoke about the role of the WHO with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Morrison discussed co-operation on repatriating stranded citizens with Ms Merkel and the pair also talked about negotiations on a free-trade deal between Australia and the European Union.

He and Mr Macron discussed the need for greater international co-operation in response to pandemics, including on developing a coronavirus vaccine.

with AAP