“We reject the basis of this decision and will be assessing the details of the findings while we consider next steps,” said Trade Minister Simon Birmingham.

“We reserve all rights to appeal this matter further and are confident that Australian farmers are among the most productive in the world, who operate without government subsidy of prices.” he said in a statement.

Mr Xi told the assembly that “China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID 19 after it is brought under control to sum up experiences and address deficiencies”.

“This work should be based on science and professionalism, led by the WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner,” he said.

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The position, which is largely consistent with that of China’s Foreign Ministry to date, is in contrast to the motion sponsored by Australia and more than 120 other countries, which explicitly calls for an independent inquiry into the WHO’s responses “at the earliest appropriate moment”.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the assembly that the organisation welcomed the proposed resolution because everyone had “lessons to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Every country and every organisation must examine its response and learn from its experience,” he said.

“I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned.

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“To be truly comprehensive, such an evaluation must encompass the entirety of the response by all actors, in good faith.”

The EU-Australian backed motion contains more than 50 other clauses and is expected to pass with the support of at least two thirds of the 197 member nations of the World Health Assembly on Tuesday. Australia, the European Union and other sponsors remain hopeful of obtaining unanimous support when the motion is put to a vote. The United States, which has pushed for an inquiry focused on China, has also yet to declare if it will support the motion.

Mr Xi said China had acted transparently since the beginning of the outbreak.

“We have provided information in a most timely fashion,” he said. “After making painstaking sacrifices and enormous efforts we have turned the tide on the virus and protected the life and health of our people.”

The Chinese Communist Party has been criticised for suppressing local concerns about the spread of the disease in December. The WHO has also been accused of failing to act quickly enough after it pushed back against global travel restrictions and did not declare a pandemic until March 11, more than two weeks after Australia.

COVID-19 has now infected more than 4.7 million people and killed 315,000 around the world.

Mr Xi urged more international co-operation and warned medical supplies still needed to be deployed to areas where they are needed most.

The Chinese President on Monday pledged $US2 billion to develop medical infrastructure to help battle the coronavirus in Africa. “It must be our top priority in the global health response,” he said.

A bloc of African countries that rely on medical aid from China on Monday said they would back the EU-Australian motion, raising hopes China may vote with the majority on the motion.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said infection-related data needed to be shared more transparently among countries and called for an early-warning system to be established.

He also called for internationally-agreed health rules to be updated and made legally binding, amid calls for China to be held accountable for the pandemic.

“We must update the WHO international health regulations and relevant norms and augment them with binding legal force,” he said.

European leaders backed an inquiry but also called for the WHO to be funded sustainably, an implied criticism of US President Donald Trump’s decision to halt funding for the WHO, amid the President’s complaints that the UN-body had acted as China’s puppet with its handling of the pandemic.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France would increase its funding for the WHO but backed an “honest” inquiry into what went wrong.

“We need to look at the situation clearly and head-on and carry out an honest and rigorous assessment of what’s worked and what hasn’t worked in the way this international crisis has been managed,” he said.

“Here we have an opportunity to provide a single, united response to the pandemic, free of complacency and unfounded accusations.

“We need to be united, demanding and clear-headed, that is our duty,” he said.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel told the assembly that the WHO was the “legitimate world organisation for the area of health.”

“And so we should continue to work to improve procedures within the WHO and we also need to look at the financing to ensure it is sustainable,” she said.

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Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra

Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.

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