New FAO boss was key China emissary on fisheries deals

The new head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has played a central role in expanding China’s global seafood reach and will now get to shape key global policies on agriculture, aquaculture, and fisheries. 

China Vice Minister for Agriculture Qu Dongyu won the support of a majority of FAO nation-states, defeating France’s Catherine Geslain-Laneelle 107-71 in an election during the 41st session of the FAO Conference, which took place 22 to 29 June.  Qu becomes the ninth director-general of the Rome, Italy-based organization. 

Qu will replace Brazilian Jose Graziano da Silva, who reportedly lobbied Latin American nations for Qu. Qu’s election is a clear indication of China’s power as a purchaser and investor in agriculture and fisheries commodities globally. According to French news reports, China used its role as a key customer of Latin American commodities such as soy, seafood, and meat to deliver votes for Qu. 

The new FAO director has become familiar with many of the world’s agriculture and fisheries ministers during his many trips around the world as a Chinese minister. As China’s vice minister for agriculture, Qu represented China in World Trade Organization talks on fishery subsidies (which were held up in part over objections from India and China over the scale and timing of subsidy cuts by developing nations).

During a trip to Argentina for WTO talks, Qu stopped at vessels owned by Shanghai Fisheries Group, Dalian Hua Feng and fishing and seafood distribution conglomerate Da Yang Shi Jia (Ocean Family). 

In late 2018, Qu was in Ghana, where he met fisheries minister Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye to discuss a memorandum of understanding on fishery cooperation between the two countries before visiting a local fishing port being built with Chinese investment and Chinese vessels docked there. 

China has significantly increased its contribution to the FAO budget in recent years, now ranking the third-largest payer behind the U.S. and Japan. It has also been a significant contributor to skills programs for developing nations in both agriculture and aquaculture.

Photo courtesy of FAO


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