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The art of negotiation: how the EU and the US should approach free trade talks


The art of negotiation: how the EU and the US should approach free trade talks


EU and US negotiators have started talks aimed at creating the world’s largest free trade zone.

The opening of negotiations come after weeks of transatlantic tensions over snooping by the US National Security Agency on its European allies.

But French President François Hollande and some MEPs had called for them to be delayed ahead of a European Parliament inquiry into the allegations leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Euronews asked Professor Stuart Diamond for his views on whether that was the right strategy and asked for his advice on how all parties could smooth over their recent differences.

Professor Diamond teaches negotiation skills at Wharton Business School and is the author of the best-selling book: ‘Getting More’

His techniques have been used by Google, the US military and the team that ended the Hollywood Writers Strike in 2008.

James Franey, euronews: There’s been so much bad blood between the US and the EU over these Edward Snowden leaks. Surely we should just follow the advice of some members of the European Parliament and just delay these talks altogether?

Professor Stuart Diamond, Wharton Business School: “That would make no sense. The Snowden controversy has nothing to do with trade talks. It would be a distraction from one’s goal to get involved with Snowden as affecting the trade talks. The goal of the trade talks is to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenues for the United States and the European Union, so it would be ineffective not to do that and to delay the talks just because of some other matter that has nothing to do with the trade talks.”

euronews: But hasn’t there been a breakdown of trust? They do have a point, perhaps?

Diamond: Well, let’s see the US and China trade. The US and the Soviet Union traded. OPEC traded with oil importers. Trust is important, but not necessary. They can build trust as they go along. Why delay something that is going to make hundreds of billions of dollars for both countries? (sic) It shows that they are distracted from the goals and they are probably emotional.

euronews: So we get the negotiators around the table, what’s the first step from your point of view?

Diamond: “Hi, what’s going on? How are you doing? What are our goals? Should we make some money here for our countries? How do we do that? What concerns do we have? What are our needs? Let’s solve them one by one. Nice and simple. An effective negotiation should be little more than a conversation. Not a power play, not an emotional fest, but if people look at it in a calm and dispassionate way like that they’ll be able to meet their goals more quickly.

euronews: Just on that issue of emotion. We’ve seen a very hard bargaining stance from France in recent weeks.Paris insisted that its audiovisual sector was excluded, even before these negotiations kicked off. What do you make of that? Does hard bargaining really work if we want to defend our interests?

Diamond: Well, the first thing to say is that if France wants to exclude some of the art venues, then they shouldn’t call it the free trade talks. They should just call it trade talks. Because Once you start excluding something it’s no longer free trade, right? That’s number one. Number two is that it will encourage the United States to start excluding things and then we won’t be anywhere. Why would you come to a negotiation with a bunch of demands before finding out what the parties want to do talk about and how to solve their individual problems? If France has some problem with supporting the arts, then it can be worked out with some specific issues or solutions within the talks, not to make it a demand before they start bargaining. That makes no sense at all.

euronews: So you think they’ve squandered a lot of capital already by really digging their heels in on this issue?

Diamond: Oh, I think it’s all recoverable. I just think husband and wife fight (then) they make up. I think everybody just needs to take the temperature down. Lets have a meeting. Lets start slow. Lets try and get these things done. What are our goals? All these public pronouncements about things that have very little to do with the start of negotiations are just a waste of time and don’t benefit anybody really.

euronews: So politicians should step back from all the rhetoric, leave it to the diplomats to work on the real issues.

Diamond: It’s really interesting that you say that. Studies show that the more junior people in organisations are the least marred in politics and power plays. So what they ought to do is get out of the negotiations, and let the people involved who know something about the subject and (who) are a lot calmer to give them meaningful solutions, instead of fighting it in the press.

euronews: That’s all very well, but what about the big cultural differences on both sides of the Atlantic. We Brits have a horrible habit of saying one thing and meaning the other. How do you overcome that? We’ve got 28 countries now in the EU so whatever deal is struck between Washington negotiators and EU negotiators, will have to be thrashed out (discussed and debated) back here in Brussels.

Diamond: Well, there’s a couple of things.First of all, Recent studies show that the success of negotiations has much less to do with the cultures people come from than how they relate to each other as individuals. So even though there are lots of different cultures, you’re not negotiating with millions of people in the same room and a cultural average, you’re negotiating with individuals so the individuals need to make a personal connections. Second is recent studies show the more difference there are between parties, as long as you value those differences, the more value you create because differences promote creativity, they promote value. So the parties should be saying: “We’re glad that we disagree. Lets use that in a collaborative way to create more value.” Negotiations are very sensitive to the attitude you have towards the other party. If you try to be collaborative, use your differences to create value and find meaningful solutions with that as a base, then you get further.

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