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The Era of International Negotiators J ersson Bedoya Giraldo

The Era of International Negotiators

By: Jersson Bedoya Giraldo
International economic negotiations are too serious to be left to politicians and
diplomats. With this statement, professor Tortora (2007) in What does it take to
be an international economic negotiator? gives way to the debate on the
importance, and ultimately the need, of having expert international economic
negotiators to direct bilateral/multilateral negotiations in international affairs. A
more deep and structured knowledge, based on literature, on this field is required
in order to grant better results in the diverse negotiation scenarios which are taking
place in this globalized era of the world history.
But, what are the skills and abilities professionals require to successfully
conducting international negotiations? First, the author highlights the importance of
focusing on how rather than on what, it is paying close attention to the process and
the environment (social, political, cultural, economic, etc.) surrounding the
negotiation and not just the contents subject of it.
On the other side, it is fundamental how public relations are carried out before,
during and after the negotiation. Public relations open the doors to meet the
counterpart and other stakeholders involved in the process; and also, through PR
negotiators get access to information which can determine the success of the
negotiation. As Tortora (2007) states it is important to establish credible, sustained
communication channels with the public opinion that can access many sources of
information in addition to, or even before, the official sources intervene in the
media. Historical evidence shows many cases where negotiations have failed due
to poor communication between negotiators, the media, and the community in
general. Besides this, domestic, as well as international, environments are
constantly evolving, requiring from the negotiator to be updated about the players
partaking in the process and maintaining appropriate long-lasting relationships with
Formerly, the information resulting in negotiations from multilateral organisms
such as the WTO or the UN, was kept in secret and international community was
not able to know the agenda and the agreements reached. Nowadays, information
flow is one of the main characteristics thanks to globalization, then relevant data for
the negotiation does not only emerge from the negotiation itself, but it is an input
coming from the environment, as well as an output delivered to the world. The
public relations the negotiator holds are vital to how that information is treated by
the media, acting as the public scrutiny of the negotiations evolution and results,
but also, of the negotiators performance.
The Era of International Negotiators J ersson Bedoya Giraldo
As mentioned previously, globalization has acted as one of the fundamental
drivers in international economic, social, political, trade and financial scenarios,
bringing new and challenging conditions to international economic negotiations.
Tortora (2007) mentions the wide fragmentation of power that increased the
volume of stakeholders with different economic interests like transnational
corporations, NGOs, and multilateral organizations, for example. This raises the
complexity of negotiations in order to come to an agreement in a win-win situation.
Another forces shaping economic policies and thinking with high impact are the
media and the increasing international trade, this has given more participation to
the private sector, but, in parallel, new interests have emerged: social corporate
responsibility, good practices in corporate governance, and environmental
As it can be perceive international economic and diplomatic negotiations are
more and more demanding and challenging, what leads to the central thesis of the
author: negotiation, as a whole, cannot be subject of improvisation; even though it
has always been recognized as an art, today it has turned into a profession and,
like so, preparation is an unavoidable step. As complexity in multilateral
negotiations increases, negotiators are pushed to anticipate the conditions and
possible scenarios that might take place during the process. Deep study of the
counterpart and its interests, likely agreements, limitations and alternatives need to
be assessed, as well as the items to be included in the agenda. Undoubtedly, as
concluded previously, environment must not be ignored as it constitutes an input to
the process, then, the negotiator must be familiarized with it and anticipate the
possible changes since environment is not static, but constantly changing.
Tortora (2007) emphasizes on the preparation stage:
The determination of the margin of manoeuvre, the level of concessions that
can be made, the maximum losses that can be accepted, and the gathering of
information on the goals of the counterpart is a tricky exercise in a multilateral
process. Preparing strategies in a multilateral process means to assess various
scenarios at the same time: choosing one outside alternative as best implies
knowing what other governments and markets would do in each scenario.
In conclusion, we are in the era of international negotiators, professional
individuals with a holistic view of the negotiation process and the environment
that surrounds it, and a multidisciplinary approach aimed at achieving win-win
Tortora, M. (2007). What does it take to be an International Economic Negotiator? (pp.