Trump administration threatened tiny nation over breastfeeding

Trump administration threatened Ecuador over its support of breastfeeding resolution

The Trump administration has forced the South American country to back down over its support for breastfeeding at the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly in May, The New York Times reports. The resolution was expected to pass easily, but US delegates aimed to remove language that encouraged countries to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding" in an alleged alignment with baby formula manufacturers.

The intensity of US opposition to the measure shocked public health officials and diplomats, marked a stark contrast from the Obama administration's support of the World Health Organization (WHO)'s position on breast-feeding.

The Times reported that the US delegation threatened other nations, by suggesting that the USA would implement trade measures with the goal of punishing them, citing more than a dozen participants from several of the countries present. "We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons". Sales in the industry have been flat in wealthy countries in recent years, as more women embrace breast-feeding, although global sales are expected to rise by four percent in 2018.

The worldwide infant formula industry, worth $70 billion, is dominated by US and European countries and has faced plateauing revenue in the developed world in recent years as awareness about the benefits of breast-feeding spreads.

'We were astonished, appalled and also saddened, ' said Patti Rundall, policy director of Baby Milk Action, a pro-breastfeeding advocacy group.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokesman told the Times the initial version of the resolution "placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition for their children". The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.

Ecuador, which was slated to introduce the resolution, was the first country targeted by American officials.

The State Department declined the Times' request to comment and said it could not discuss private diplomatic conversations.

And breastfeeding 'saves lives, protects babies and mothers against deadly diseases, and leads to better IQ and educational outcomes, ' according to a May report from UNICEF.

The final resolution largely reflected the original wording.

News of the combative approach within the World Health Assembly mirrored the Trump administration's posture toward other key global bodies.

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. "At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?" Some language was still changed however, including removing "inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children" and adding "evidence-based" to some statements.

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