Defining Fairness: US German trade negotiations

Defining Fairness: US German trade negotiations

At a meeting on March 17 2017 the US President Donald Trump advised German Chancellor Angela Merkel “We don’t want victory, we want fairness”. This was because the US President claimed that millions of Americans are “left behind” by “unfair” trade agreements and that “Negotiators for Germany have done far better than negotiators for the US".

Why do agreements get renegotiated? One common reason is that there becomes a fairness imbalance in the framework and actions that were designed to maximise gains and minimise losses.

In the case of trade between the US and Europe, it would appear that the impacts of a lower euro, loss of manufacturing jobs and wage stagnation caused the agreement to lose relevance and fail to deliver the US the anticipated benefits.

What can be done to improve renegotiations? A useful starting point is for both sides to acknowledge that those involved with the original agreement could not fully predict the impacts that any defects or future conditions might have. By holding this mindset it becomes easier to avoid retaliation and to have a collaborative approach to problem solving and the joint design of a new agreement.

Self-coaching tips

  • Develop a set of principles that could apply to future agreements. For example, does it make sense to equally share gains or losses irrespective of contributions, or to distribute gains and losses proportionally to contributions?
  • Apply objective criteria, precedents, policies or standards, which might include legal considerations, industry indices, or religious and cultural norms.
  • If you can’t agree on objective criteria or principles, seek out a respected third party. This can give valuable process guidance, help others to save face, and bring reflection and fresh thinking to challenge how the issues are being viewed.


Avoiding Buyer's Remorse: Knowing when to close

Breaking Deadlocks: AFL resolves stalemate

Changing Perceptions: Shane Warne recalls advice

Collaborating to Create Value: Power to the people

Coping Strategies: Managing difficult Negotiators

Creating Alternatives: Flying fresh milk to China

Creating Points of Influence: Russell Crowe gets his leading lady

Cultural Differences: SONY Walkman designed for harmony

Defining Fairness: US German trade negotiations

Difficult Conversations: Thalidomide sufferers seek empathy

Elon Musk: When to negotiate

Engaging the Enemy: US and Taliban peace talks

Finding Common Ground: US Firearm reforms

Gun Tragedies: We hear you

Hostage Negotiations: A frontline perspective

Identity Needs: Tobacco now a nobody

Influencing Timelines: The brave new world of regulators

In Focus: Black Friday Negotiation Strategies

In Focus: Negotiating Roles

In Focus: Winning Together

Leadership Without Authority: Reducing domestic violence

Managing COVID-19 Renegotiations

Managing Power Imbalances

Managing Uncertainty: New freeway gets a red light

Measuring Negotiation Costs

Mindsets: It’s a choice!

Negotiating Teams & Coalitions

Negotiating with Agents

Negotiation Preparation: Prime Minster wins election

Negotiation Styles: Managing aggressive behaviours

Price Haggling: Strategies to position value

Problem Solving: Calm in the cockpit

Problem Solving: Delivering outcomes

Restoring Relationships: Saying sorry

Setting the Scene: Automotive executives fly into a storm

Shaping Mindsets: AVIS We try harder

Taylor Swift: Giving others a voice

The Authentic Negotiator

The Power of Language: A statement or a question?

Timing Concessions: Bangladesh factory tragedy

Traits of Skilled Negotiators: Nelson Mandela

Verifying Trust: World soccer cup and gulf of Mexico oil spill