Trump is al­ready mak­ing ne­go­ti­a­tion mis­takes.

Ex-am­bas­sador Bill Richard­son says the pres­i­dent has for­got­ten the busi­ness­man’s savvy ad­vice

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - Twitter: @GovRichard­son Bill Richard­son is a for­mer mem­ber of Congress, for­mer gov­er­nor of New Mex­ico, for­mer en­ergy sec­re­tary and for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions.

Pres­i­dent Trump prides him­self on be­ing a world-class ne­go­tia­tor. His can­di­dacy, and now his pres­i­dency, have re­lied on that premise. He says he’ll “force the Ira­ni­ans back to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble” on the nu­clear deal; af­ter scrap­ping the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, he’ll se­cure bi­lat­eral trade deals with Pa­cific Rim coun­tries and rene­go­ti­ate NAFTA’s terms; Mex­ico, he in­sists, “will pay for the wall, be­lieve me — 100 per­cent.” Never one to un­der­promise, last year he told one re­porter: “Peace all over the world would be the best deal. And I think I would know how to do it bet­ter than any­body else.”

Trump the busi­ness­man has, in­deed, hag­gled many busi­ness deals. He even wrote a best-sell­ing book about it. Yet politi­cian Trump is mak­ing mis­takes that “Art of the Deal” Trump wouldn’t. He’s ne­go­ti­at­ing against him­self — giv­ing up lever­age be­fore there’s a cor­re­spond­ing ask — and he’s box­ing in his ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ners, driv­ing up the cost of reach­ing agree­ments, with po­ten­tially per­ilous re­sults.

One ex­pla­na­tion is that pri­vate-sec­tor ne­go­ti­a­tions are quite dif­fer­ent than ex­changes in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. Ci­ti­zen Trump’s busi­ness ne­go­ti­a­tions have fre­quently been stand-alone deals: You build a tower, I’ll put my name on it, and we’ll share the prof­its.

Ne­go­ti­at­ing on be­half of the Amer­i­can peo­ple on mat­ters of global se­cu­rity is far more in­tri­cate. On the world stage, deals are fre­quently mul­ti­facted, mul­ti­lat­eral and for the high­est stakes. Some­times these are mat­ters of life and death and war and peace. They cause re­ver­ber­a­tions and carry in­di­rect and of­ten un­in­tended con­se­quences across con­ti­nents. I know, be­cause I’ve worked on many of them. Ne­go­ti­at­ing with North Korea, the Tal­iban, Su­dan and Cuba is not com­pa­ra­ble to bar­ter­ing with casino moguls, real es­tate czars and ho­tel chains.

When Trump sig­nals that he’s con­sid­er­ing mov­ing the U.S. Em­bassy in Is­rael from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he needs to un­der­stand that this is not a sim­ple, iso­lated act of sup­port for Is­rael. It will sig­nif­i­cantly af­fect his ex­ist­ing di­a­logue, and any po­ten­tial agree­ments, with Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and other re­gional pow­ers. Not be­cause their gov­ern­ments are ob­sessed with the lo­ca­tion of our em­bassy, but be­cause it’s likely that many cit­i­zens in these coun­tries will be march­ing in the streets in protest, and their gov­ern­ments’ cred­i­bil­ity and sta­bil­ity will be on the line. The United States needs to stand firmly be­hind Is­rael; in my opin­ion, our re­cent ab­sten­tion at the United Na­tions on a res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing set­tle­ments was a mis­take. But so far, Trump’s Bibi-can-do-no-wrong stance to­ward Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu has em­bold­ened Is­rael to take the rare step of an­nounc­ing a ma­jor set­tle­ment ex­pan­sion. This will se­verely ham­per fu­ture ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Pales­tini­ans to bring sta­bil­ity to the re­gion.

These kinds of ne­go­ti­a­tions can’t be ze­ro­sum. To reach suc­cess­ful, last­ing in­ter­na­tional agree­ments, the pres­i­dent needs to serve the in­ter­ests of the United States, while al­low­ing his coun­ter­parts to claim their vic­to­ries as well. If your coun­ter­part can’t live with or sur­vive po­lit­i­cally the con­se­quences of your deal, the deal won’t hold. As a diplo­mat, I al­ways be­lieved that in ne­go­ti­a­tions it was im­por­tant to let my part­ners take credit and, when nec­es­sary, al­low them to save face. In 1996, when I per­suaded Su­danese rebel leader Keru­bino Kwanyin Bol to re­lease three Red Cross work­ers de­spite his ini­tial multi-mil­lion dol­lar ran­som de­mand, we held a joint news con­fer­ence with sev­eral diplo­mats in at­ten­dance and praised Bol’s hu­man­i­tar­ian ges­ture. We also promised him med­i­cal sup­plies for chil­dren in the rebel camp.

But by pub­licly stat­ing over and over that he will make Mex­ico pay for his border wall and redo NAFTA, Trump makes it im­pos­si­ble for Mex­ico’s pres­i­dent to sur­vive such a deal, even if, some­how, Trump man­aged to ne­go­ti­ate it out of him. He’s forc­ing Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto to har­den his own po­si­tion. Tues­day, Peña Ni­eto’s govern­ment floated the idea of pulling out of NAFTA and less­en­ing Mex­ico’s co­op­er­a­tion on car­tels, se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion, all im­por­tant U.S. in­ter­ests. On Wed­nes­day, Peña Ni­eto re­it­er­ated his op­po­si­tion to the wall in a tele­vised state­ment; Thurs­day, Trump threat­ened to can­cel a planned meet­ing be­tween the two lead­ers; a few hours later, Peña Ni­eto did can­cel. They spoke Fri­day, but from here, the price of reach­ing a deal just goes up.

Un­like some busi­ness deals, in­ter­na­tional af­fairs and po­lit­i­cal agree­ments are rarely a one-time game. There is al­ways a next round. Mis­be­have af­ter you con­clude a deal, and the next round will be more costly. Gloat­ing about be­ing a win­ner and call­ing your coun­ter­part a loser will back­fire bigly.

Ne­go­tia­tors should also keep as many op­tions open as pos­si­ble. “I never get too at­tached to one deal or one ap­proach,” ne­go­tia­tor Trump writes in “The Art of the Deal.” “I keep a lot of balls in the air, be­cause most deals fall out, no mat­ter how promis­ing they seem at first.” Pres­i­dent Trump, how­ever, seems in­tent on clos­ing doors be­fore he has an al­ter­na­tive lined up. He wasted no time sign­ing an ex­ec­u­tive order that marked the United States’ with­drawal from the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship. Yes, it ful­filled a cam­paign pledge, but TPP was meant to give us eco­nomic lever­age over China, and Trump just gave a lot of it away with­out lin­ing up al­ter­na­tives, thereby let­ting China back in the game.

In ad­di­tion, by tear­ing up the TPP, Trump dam­aged our re­la­tions with 11 other im­por­tant coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, Canada, Mex­ico and Ja­pan. The pres­i­dent’s claim that he will ne­go­ti­ate in­di­vid­ual trade agree­ments with these na­tions is im­prac­ti­cal and un­re­al­is­tic. While he slogs along on 11 sep­a­rate trade deals, the United States could be mov­ing full steam ahead into trade wars with al­lies such as Canada and Mex­ico, as well as com­peti­tors such as China. Pro­tec­tion­ism costs jobs and slows eco­nomic growth. We’ve lost the TPP and have, so far, got­ten noth­ing in return.

Ne­go­tia­tor Trump ar­gues: “The worst thing you can pos­si­bly do in a deal is seem des­per­ate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead. The best thing you can do is deal from strength, and lever­age is the big­gest strength you can have.” Com­mit­ting to re­peal­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act, be­fore a new plan has been ne­go­ti­ated with the in­surance in­dus­try and health-care providers, will make Pres­i­dent Trump ne­go­ti­ate from a point of weak­ness, des­per­ate to make a deal. Most ne­go­ti­a­tions take place out of the spot­light, and Trump’s com­ments about the ACA sug­gest that he has far less lever­age in pri­vate. In 1995, Sad­dam Hus­sein agreed to re­lease two Amer­i­can pris­on­ers to me only af­ter months of in­tense but quiet talks. All we had to give in return was a pub­lic thank you. Hus­sein never would have agreed to those terms had we been spout­ing in­sults and bluffs. Bom­bas­tic threats not only would’ve jeop­ar­dized the ne­go­ti­a­tions, they would’ve en­dan­gered those two Amer­i­cans, work­ers for a U.S. air­craft com­pany who had made a wrong turn in Kuwait.

Sim­i­larly, do­ing away with the Iran nu­clear deal in­stead of us­ing it as lever­age to ne­go­ti­ate amend­ments and change the Ira­nian regime’s un­ac­cept­able be­hav­ior — such as its sup­port for known ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions and calls for the de­struc­tion of Is­rael — would be counter to ne­go­tia­tor Trump’s logic. The deal is made. The Ira­ni­ans have an in­ter­est in keep­ing it. In ne­go­tia­tor Trump’s words: “Lever­age is hav­ing some­thing the other guy wants. Or bet­ter yet, needs.” What does Pres­i­dent Trump gain, ne­go­ti­a­tion-wise, by throw­ing his lever­age away?

Fi­nally, ne­go­tia­tors man­age ex­pec­ta­tions. As Trump wrote: “I al­ways go into the deal an­tic­i­pat­ing the worst. If you plan for the worst — if you can live with the worst — the good will al­ways take care of it­self.” Pres­i­dent Trump, how­ever, seems to have for­got­ten this prin­ci­ple, mak­ing sky-high promises that he may not be able to de­liver on. And worse than in busi­ness deals, when the ex­pec­ta­tions you set in a po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment are higher than the re­sults you achieve, you will be a dis­ap­point­ment and even­tu­ally lose sup­port.

In an al­ter­nate uni­verse, Trump the ne­go­tia­tor might very well pro­claim Trump the pres­i­dent some­thing of an am­a­teur. “You can’t con peo­ple,” he notes, “at least not for long. You can cre­ate ex­cite­ment, you can do won­der­ful pro­mo­tion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a lit­tle hy­per­bole.

“But,” he adds, “if you don’t de­liver the goods, peo­ple will even­tu­ally catch on.”


Sources: De­cem­ber 2012 Fox News among reg­is­tered vot­ers (hir­ing freeze), Oc­to­ber 2015 Post-ABC among adults (Key­stone Pipe­line, TPP), March 2016 Quin­nip­iac among reg­is­tered vot­ers (tor­ture), January 2017 Post-ABC among adults (border wall, NAFTA, busi­ness taxes), January 2017 Quin­nip­iac among reg­is­tered vot­ers (im­mi­gra­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal regs., busi­ness regs.)

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