Everybody knows how to negotiate except Trump

Especially all the reporters and commentators who have never negotiated any deal bigger than their house!

By Lawrence J. Fedewa July 27, 2018)

If you were hiring a negotiator to handle the biggest deal of your life, would you choose person who had no experience negotiating big deals or someone who had been doing it all his life? Would you choose someone like Chris Matthews  or Chris Wallace, or would you hire Donald J. Trump?

It happens that the American people hired Donald Trump. It also happens that Wallace, Matthews, Como, Blitzer and their cohorts don’t have a clue to understanding Trump’s negotiating strategy, let alone being competent to implement it. This is true, even though Trump published a detailed explanation of his bargaining process many years ago in The Art of the Deal (Ballantine, reprint 2015). There is no secret here.

The Trump Strategy

Stripped to its basics, Trump’s strategy is this:

1) Carefully formulate what you want and why.

2) Figure out what the opposition fears most,

3) Start high by loudly considering their worst fear as your next action,

4) When you have made your point, be receptive to their counter offer,

5) Propose an alternative that benefits both sides,

6) Close the deal.

7) Pay no attention to critics who accuse you of lying and/or flip-flopping. They don’t know what they are watching.

Amateur Negotiators are ignorant

Official Washington – and world of diplomacy as well – totally misunderstand this approach. They are used to politicians starting with their final position as a demand of the other side, followed by threats and promises of no compromise, followed by highly structured meetings which result in signed agreements which may or may not ever be followed. Instead of following Theodore Roosevelt’s advice to “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, our politicians talk big and carry a small stick. Why? Because they are used to thinking in terms of wars, and they are deathly afraid of starting a world war. So, they rely on “sanctions” in the form of financial and trade restrictions and starting “little wars” – attacking small countries which will not bring down the wrath of a nuclear power.

In Trump’s world, you can never win a negotiation if you are afraid to use all your leverage. If you have self-imposed limitations on how you will use your leverage, the opposition will use that against you. For example, North Korea knew from the beginning that President Clinton would not use military force to enforce his demands during the 1994 dispute. So, they gave Clinton what he wanted, namely, their solemn promise to disarm, signed the paper, and then promptly forgot about their promises.

North Korea

Next, President Trump engaged in a spirited long-distance dialog with Kim Jong Un after the missiles over Japan and Guam demonstrations. With the Chinese  and Russians openly supporting the USA, it wasn’t long before, the North Korean dictator wanted to talk peace. At their widely publicized meeting in Singapore, President talked softly in front of his huge stick. The follow-up is still in question, but the key to progress so far is that fact that the American President succeeding in scaring the devil out of the North Korean dictator and his sponsors. They were not sure he would not go to military action; he might just be crazy enough to do it. He was, of course, backed all the way by Defense Secretary Mattis, who gave the impression that there might be new approach to attacking North Korea which would yet ensure the protection of South Korea.

Altogether a complex, multi-faceted strategy, still in play.

“Trade Wars?”

The North Korean episode is an example of the Trump strategy in action. A similar analysis could be made of Trump’s strategic negotiations with Congress, including his one spectacular failure when he miscalculated John McCain’s motivations on Obamacare. Likewise, his Russia strategy. However, the gamble of the moment is the so-called looming “trade war”.

Again, Mr. Trump started the negotiations with the worst possible actions to illustrate his unhappiness with current – and historical — trade imbalances with America’s trading partners. He began talking about imposing gargantuan (compared to existing) tariffs on steel and aluminum. When nothing happened, he actually began to activate his threats. Everybody went wild!

Trump, however, knew from the beginning that the ”partners” would never agree to change their ways  without proof that he was serious. He was prepared to take the heat, which came from all sides, including and especially from his formidable chorus of American critics, who could not think their way through to the outcome Trump was after. Interestingly, the one group that has been more or less unaffected by this entire dialog is Wall Street, where the traders spend their entire lives in negotiations.

Along the way, Trump revealed his true goal: free trade – no tariffs for anybody on any imports under any circumstances. On July 26, 2018, the President of the European Union – one of the USA’s largest trading partners – came to Washington with a proposal to lift all tariffs on all goods and services traded between participating nations. And proved that the Europeans are wise to the American President’s ways. This major break in the wall of resistance to changing the world trading environment, in which the USA has been the loser in the trade wars of the past 60 years is the lever by which to begin building a new world order. Its importance cannot be overemphasized.

The Critics

The Trump Administration is still in the first quarter of this term, and it is still too early to tell what lasting effects the President’s negotiations will achieve. But, it does seem unlikely that any of  the critics of President Trump’s negotiating skills could muster the skill, the courage and the strategies to achieve these outcomes. Better to leave these matters to the pro.


© Copyright by Richfield Press, 2018  (All rights reserved)

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