The For­bes TOP10 Nego­tia­ti­ons That Will Chan­ge 2022

Power strug­gles, elec­tions, civil unrest, the ongo­ing pan­de­mic — the world has seen more than enough of ever­y­thing in 2021. The phra­se “The more things chan­ge, the more they stay the same,” pen­ned by French wri­ter Jean-Bap­tis­te Alphon­se Karr in 1849, may pro­ve to be true.

Donald Trump’s nego­tia­ting style with Iran is very dif­fe­rent from that of the new Pre­si­dent Joe Biden. The new Ger­man govern­ment has much less to do with demo­cra­tic elec­tions than with com­plex mul­ti­par­ty nego­tia­ti­ons. The world does­n’t know whe­ther to nego­tia­te with the Tali­ban in Afgha­ni­stan at all. And both Rus­sia and Chi­na still cla­im they are mere­ly exer­cis­ing their rights and not try­ing to expand their bor­ders through mili­ta­ry action.

The­se and other reports on nego­tia­ti­ons that chan­ged the world in 2021 and will shape it in 2022 can be found here.

10, Trump v. Biden: The Iran nuclear talks

Is Iran serious­ly enga­ging in nego­tia­ti­ons, or is Iran’s recent­ly elec­ted Pre­si­dent Ebra­him Rai­si just stal­ling for time to build up the country’s nuclear capa­bi­li­ties and gain addi­tio­nal levera­ge in nego­tia­ti­ons? 

Obser­vers are quick­ly giving up hope that any kind of agree­ment could be rea­ched soon.

Iran wants all cur­rent eco­no­mic sanc­tions lifted befo­re any agree­ment is con­side­red. The Biden admi­nis­tra­ti­on and U.S. allies are deman­ding that Iran first return to the JCPOA agree­ment rea­ched during Obama’s pre­si­den­cy. 

Who will give in first?

Cri­tics of the ori­gi­nal agree­ment, rea­ched during Pre­si­dent Obama’s last term, com­plai­ned that “Iran can make as many nuclear war­heads as it wants in a few years, as well as the mis­siles to deli­ver them any­whe­re in the world.”

In line with this stance (and after Oba­ma sent $1.7 bil­li­on in cash to Tehr­an), Pre­si­dent Trump with­drew the United Sta­tes from the JCPOA over­night and tigh­ten­ed sanc­tions on the coun­try.

The cur­rent talks are taking place in Vien­na, whe­re Iran, Rus­sia, Chi­na, the United King­dom, France, Ger­ma­ny, and the EU are still duking it out. Ira­ni­an nego­tia­tors are refu­sing to meet direct­ly with the U.S. dele­ga­ti­on, cal­ling them “untrust­wor­t­hy.” Iran reli­es on this stance and wants the United Sta­tes to com­mit to never repea­ting Trump’s actions. But that is one thing the U.S. Con­sti­tu­ti­on does not give Pre­si­dent Biden the right to do. Now, limi­t­ed powers can be bene­fi­ci­al to a nego­tia­tor.

9. Apple might not: Ama­zon nego­tia­tes purcha­se of MGM

Litt­le is known about the talks at the nego­tia­ting table, but cri­tics say Ama­zon may have paid $4 bil­li­on more than MGM Stu­di­os is said to be worth. That said, Amazon’s video cata­log will be near­ly twice the size of Netflix’s con­trol­led reper­toire once the deal pas­ses scru­ti­ny by fede­ral regu­la­tors — a cru­cial step.

Other com­pa­nies, inclu­ding Apple, have cour­ted MGM in the past. But with the announce­ment of the acqui­si­ti­on in May at a pri­ce of $8.45 bil­li­on, Ama­zon gets the nod. Pos­si­ble.

MGM’s chair­man, Kevin Ulrich, did not want to sell. And the deal is now under review by the FTC, with a con­sor­ti­um of uni­on groups cal­ling on the FTC to deny the purcha­se. “Amazon’s impact on the health and diver­si­ty of the film indus­try is likely to be nega­ti­ve if the com­pa­ny is allo­wed to get big­ger,” this orga­niza­ti­on claims.

Com­pli­ca­ting mat­ters fur­ther is the fact that the famous James Bond films and rela­ted inte­rests are under the crea­ti­ve con­trol of Eon Pro­duc­tions. This com­pa­ny has been a con­stant hea­da­che for MGM Stu­di­os and will likely con­ti­nue to give Ama­zon a hard time if the purcha­se is appro­ved. But then again, if Net­flix paid over $500 mil­li­on for Sein­feld, what are all the Bond films worth?

Good busi­ness crea­tes value: one plus one can add up to much more than two.  

8. the big­gest euro­pean take­over of the year: Von­o­via acqui­res Deut­sche Woh­nen

In the lar­gest take­over to date on the Euro­pean real estate mar­ket, two Ger­man com­pe­ti­tors are now united under one roof. Von­o­via secu­red the majo­ri­ty of shares and 87.6 per­cent of the voting rights in Deut­sche Woh­nen.

Howe­ver, it was not to be a hosti­le take­over; nego­tia­ti­ons were initi­al­ly on an ami­ca­ble basis. In the end, the mood of the share­hol­ders was not very worry­ing. The take­over gives Von­o­via con­trol over more than half a mil­li­on apart­ments.

On the plus side of the purcha­se is the fact that com­bi­ning the resour­ces of the two com­pa­nies should lead to a reduc­tion in over­head cos­ts — and the­se savings could poten­ti­al­ly help to curb spi­ra­ling cos­ts for ten­ants. The nega­ti­ve side, of cour­se, is a reduc­tion in com­pe­ti­ti­on among land­lords.

Von­o­via has alre­a­dy attempt­ed to take over Deut­sche Woh­nen twice. Chan­ges in tac­tics that even­tual­ly led to suc­cess included hiring advi­sors to sup­port the effort and assu­ring Deut­sche Wohnen’s share­hol­ders that its inten­ti­ons did not include a hosti­le com­po­nent. Ulti­m­ate­ly, howe­ver, the acqui­si­ti­on was initia­ted wit­hout majo­ri­ty appr­oval. 

It’s a simp­le nego­tia­ting tac­tic that often pays off: Per­sis­tence.

To make mat­ters worse, many Ger­mans belie­ve that the two com­pa­nies and others like them should be natio­na­li­zed. This is a very emo­tio­nal and poli­ti­cal issue in Ger­ma­ny, a coun­try with one of the lowest home owner­ship rates among advan­ced eco­no­mies — Ger­mans like to rent. After a suc­cessful refe­ren­dum (with no legal con­se­quen­ces), a sur­vey show­ed that a majo­ri­ty of Ber­lin citi­zens actual­ly favor natio­na­liza­ti­on of lar­ge-sca­le land­lords. Von­o­via is try­ing to get around the pro­blem by pro­mi­sing, among other things, to sell 14,000 apart­ments to the city of Ber­lin and to for­go rent increa­ses until 2026.

7. a nego­tia­ting suc­cess at last: the World Trade Orga­niza­ti­on

U.S. Trade Repre­sen­ta­ti­ve Kathe­ri­ne Tai cal­led it “the first suc­cessful WTO nego­tia­ti­on on ser­vices in years” and con­cluded the WTO Joint State­ment Initia­ti­ve on Ser­vices Dome­stic Regu­la­ti­ons (DR JSI) in Decem­ber. 

The new pro­vi­si­ons of the DR JSI, which focus on cla­ri­fy­ing rules for glo­bal trade, aim to impro­ve regu­la­to­ry prac­ti­ces and increase trade par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on by remo­ving bar­riers for micro, small, and medi­um-sized enter­pri­ses (MSMEs). In addi­ti­on, non-dis­cri­mi­na­ti­on on the basis of gen­der is now requi­red for access.

What made the dif­fe­rence? Why did it take more than 20 years to intro­du­ce the­se mea­su­res? It is pos­si­ble that con­cern about the coro­na­vi­rus pan­de­mic tip­ped the balan­ce in a posi­ti­ve direc­tion. 

The WTO Gene­ral Coun­cil can­cel­led the 12th Minis­te­ri­al Con­fe­rence (MC12) in 2020 and again in 2021. This delay could have encou­ra­ged DR JSI par­ti­ci­pan­ts to for­ma­li­ze the work alre­a­dy done on the new mea­su­res ins­tead of wai­ting until the pan­de­mic was over.

It’s sad but true: live nego­tia­ti­ons can be less effec­ti­ve than a series of smal­ler email, video­con­fe­rence or pho­ne nego­tia­ti­ons if too many par­ties are invol­ved.

6. nego­tia­ti­on the Rus­si­an way: Putin threa­tens Ukrai­ne

Here’s a nego­tia­ting tac­tic that few can mus­ter: Deploy more than 100,000 tro­ops to the regi­on you want to con­quer. Rus­sia is kee­ping the West on edge to fend off a threa­ten­ed inva­si­on by Vla­di­mir Putin on Ukraine’s eas­tern bor­der.

Last fall, nego­tia­tors from Rus­sia, Ukrai­ne, Ger­ma­ny and France met in Paris to ease ten­si­ons bet­ween the two count­ries. Howe­ver, the­se talks fai­led to achie­ve more than a rather weak ceas­e­fi­re. 

Rus­sia is now pres­sing the United Sta­tes to pro­vi­de cer­tain secu­ri­ty gua­ran­tees-inclu­ding ending mili­ta­ry aid and the West’s eco­no­mic desi­res in Ukrai­ne. Putin is also deman­ding that Ukrai­ni­an lea­der Volo­dym­yr Zel­en­sky reject Ukraine’s inte­rest in NATO mem­ber­ship.

The Biden admi­nis­tra­ti­on respon­ded to the increase in tro­ops along the bor­der by threa­tening dra­stic eco­no­mic rest­ric­tions and a sure respon­se from NATO mem­bers in the regi­on. Even if Ukraine’s NATO mem­ber­ship is still a long way off, Biden can hard­ly accept a veto by Rus­sia.

Putin’s tro­ops are rea­dy, and if we look at the sce­na­rio as a game of Hazard, who would you bet on — Putin or Biden? With his bra­zen pre­pa­ra­ti­ons for war, Putin has shifted the nego­tia­ting posi­ti­on in his favor.

5. How far will the dis­pu­te go? Chi­na-Tai­wan nego­tia­ti­ons

Tai­wan was expel­led from the United Nati­ons in 1971 and repla­ced by the com­mu­nist govern­ment in 1949. The People’s Repu­blic of Chi­na (PROC) has long wan­ted to read­mit the “breaka­way pro­vin­ce” into the fold of the United Nati­ons, but Tai­wan con­siders its­elf a sove­reign nati­on. Bei­jing demands that any nati­on see­king to estab­lish diplo­ma­tic rela­ti­ons with the People’s Repu­blic must not reco­gni­ze Taiwan’s cla­im. This dis­pu­te is at the heart of the Sino-Tai­wa­ne­se con­flict and makes for dif­fi­cult nego­tia­ti­ons.

But it gets thi­c­ker: The Tai­wan Rela­ti­ons Act of 1979 obli­ga­tes the United Sta­tes to assist Tai­wan “in main­tai­ning its defen­se capa­bi­li­ty.” Alt­hough the U.S. is not obli­ga­ted to actively defend Tai­wan in the event of an attack, it is clear that it would not stand idly by and watch a Chi­ne­se take­over. 

In Octo­ber, Tai­wa­ne­se Defen­se Minis­ter Chiu Kuoch­eng noted that Chi­ne­se air­craft are now brea­ching Taiwan’s air defen­se zone in record num­bers. “Mili­ta­ry ten­si­ons with Chi­na are hig­her than they have been in more than 40 years,” Chiu said. 

That same month, five mem­bers of the U.S. House of Repre­sen­ta­ti­ves visi­ted Tai­wan-one of whom repor­ted recei­ving “a blunt mes­sa­ge from the Chi­ne­se Embas­sy tel­ling me to can­cel the trip.” In respon­se to the trip, Zhao Liji­an, spea­king on behalf of the Chi­ne­se For­eign Minis­try, announ­ced, “Let me give some Ame­ri­cans some advice: don’t play the Tai­wan card. Becau­se that is a bad card. You will not win.”

In Novem­ber, U.S. Pre­si­dent Biden and PROC Pre­si­dent Xi Jin­ping met vir­tual­ly. Regar­ding Tai­wan, which Spea­k­er Zhao cal­led the most important and sen­si­ti­ve issue in China‑U.S. rela­ti­ons, Biden assu­red Xi Jin­ping that he would stick to the “One Chi­na” poli­cy. Xi repor­ted­ly war­ned Biden, “If you play with fire, you will get bur­ned.”

In Decem­ber, U.S. Secre­ta­ry of Sta­te Ant­o­ny Blin­ken said the­re would be “dire con­se­quen­ces” if Chi­na inva­ded Tai­wan and that it would be “a poten­ti­al­ly cata­stro­phic decis­i­on” by Chi­na. Adding fuel to the smol­de­ring fire, Tai­wan recei­ved an invi­ta­ti­on to the U.S. Sum­mit for Demo­cra­cy that same week. Chi­na was not invi­ted. Wang Ting-yu, a mem­ber of Taiwan’s legis­la­tu­re, cal­led the move a “clear signal to Bei­jing.”

It is pos­si­ble that the dis­pu­te over Taiwan’s sove­reig­n­ty is pro­ving to be far more important to world affairs than many now belie­ve. It is not just a ter­ri­to­ri­al dis­pu­te, but an issue that could shake the world and cau­se nati­ons to take one side or the other of a ticking time bomb. Let us hope that the pro­blem can be resol­ved at the nego­tia­ting table.

4. North and South Korea for­mal­ly end the war — or do they?

Vague and enig­ma­tic wor­ding can some­ti­mes be the key to agree­ment: Hen­ry Kis­sin­ger cal­led this “stra­te­gic ambi­gui­ty.” This seems to be the case with a Decem­ber state­ment by South Kore­an Pre­si­dent Moon Jae-in: “The United Sta­tes, Chi­na, and North Korea agree in prin­ci­ple to decla­re the 1950–53 Kore­an War over, and Seo­ul will work to make that hap­pen.

An “agree­ment in prin­ci­ple” is not quite the same as an agree­ment on a spe­ci­fic issue. It does, howe­ver, open the door to a reduc­tion of ten­si­ons on the Kore­an Pen­in­su­la. The Kore­an War offi­ci­al­ly ended in 1953, but through an armi­sti­ce rather than a peace trea­ty. North and South Korea have tech­ni­cal­ly been at war for more than 70 years.

In Sep­tem­ber, North Korea rejec­ted Moon’s request to offi­ci­al­ly decla­re the war over. Accor­ding to North Kore­an sta­te media, Depu­ty For­eign Minis­ter Ri Thae Song said, “Not­hing will chan­ge as long as the poli­ti­cal cir­cum­s­tances around the DPRK remain unch­an­ged and the hosti­le poli­cy of the U.S. is not chan­ged.”

Howe­ver, South Korea’s desi­re to offi­ci­al­ly end the war opens the door to peace a litt­le wider. For­mal nego­tia­ti­ons have not yet begun, appar­ent­ly in anti­ci­pa­ti­on of a U.S. move to end hosti­li­ties. The Biden Administration’s public posi­ti­on is that it remains com­mit­ted to las­ting peace on the Kore­an Pen­in­su­la through dia­lo­gue and diplo­ma­cy with the Demo­cra­tic People’s Repu­blic of Korea.

In a speech to the United Nati­ons Gene­ral Assem­bly in Sep­tem­ber, Moon said, “Alt­hough North Korea has recent­ly asked to stop using dou­ble stan­dards and to refrain from pur­suing hosti­le poli­ci­es toward the North to decla­re the end of the war, it has also shown posi­ti­ve respon­ses…”

3 A Stran­ge Coali­ti­on: Ger­man Govern­ment Nego­tia­ti­ons

With an elec­to­ral sys­tem that has resul­ted in more than a half-dozen par­ties in the Ger­man par­lia­ment, forming a govern­ment is less in the hands of the peo­p­le than in the hands of good nego­tia­tors. Smal­ler par­ties, such as the Free Demo­cra­tic Par­ty and the Green Par­ty, were able to choo­se the chan­cell­or: They cho­se Olaf Scholz, the lea­der of the Social Demo­cra­tic Par­ty.

Alt­hough the Social Demo­crats recei­ved more votes than the Chris­ti­an Demo­cra­tic Uni­on (25.7% ver­sus 18.9%), this was still the second-worst result in the histo­ry of the par­ty, which nee­ded coali­ti­on part­ners to form a govern­ment. Con­se­quent­ly, the smal­ler par­ties out­per­for­med the Chris­ti­an Demo­cra­tic Uni­on, the par­ty of for­mer Chan­cell­or Ange­la Mer­kel. 

The Greens were the last par­ty to agree to the coali­ti­on. Twen­ty-two working groups then met to work out issues. Their recom­men­da­ti­ons were then pas­sed on to a six-mem­ber nego­tia­ting team, which made the final decis­i­ons.

Adopted goals include rai­sing the mini­mum wage, afforda­ble housing, lowe­ring house­hold elec­tri­ci­ty cos­ts, lowe­ring the voting age to 16, and lega­li­zing recrea­tio­nal use of can­na­bis. 

Com­men­ta­tor Roland Tichy had the fol­lo­wing to say about the prio­ri­ties of the Four-Year Plan: “Infla­ti­on? Cri­sis on the Polish bor­der? Ener­gy shorta­ge? Unem­ploy­ment? Bud­get defi­ci­ts? Not important. The main thing is that gra­zing ani­mals and peo­p­le make room for the wolf.”

Mul­ti-par­ty coali­ti­ons are high­ly inte­res­t­ing from a negotiator’s point of view. From the per­spec­ti­ve of the citi­zens, howe­ver, they are not, becau­se the for­ma­ti­on of the govern­ment does not reflect the will of the peo­p­le, but rather the abili­ties of the nego­tia­tors. Moreo­ver, the coali­ti­on is fra­gi­le and the two smal­ler par­ties could chan­ge chan­cell­ors at any time‑a four-year nego­tia­ti­on.

2 Nego­tia­ting with the Tali­ban: Is it even pos­si­ble?

Rare­ly can you choo­se your nego­tia­ting part­ner, espe­ci­al­ly when it comes to lar­ge cor­po­ra­ti­ons — or nati­ons. So how should the world nego­tia­te with the Tali­ban, once eli­mi­na­ted by U.S. mili­ta­ry inter­ven­ti­on? After the with­dra­wal of inter­na­tio­nal forces from Afgha­ni­stan, the Tali­ban were given a direct path to rule — a path they quick­ly took. Two deca­des of try­ing to sta­bi­li­ze the war-torn coun­try were ended in a mat­ter of days. As a result, Afghans are now suf­fe­ring seve­re food shorta­ges, pover­ty is ram­pant, and the coun­try is once again in deep trou­ble.

Mean­while, the Tali­ban have been nego­tia­ting with Iran and other adver­s­a­ries of the West. One of the oldest tenets of inter­na­tio­nal nego­tia­ti­ons is that “the ene­my of my ene­my is my fri­end.” Will pre­vious nego­tia­ti­ons with the Tali­ban even mat­ter if the­se enemies ral­ly?

In 2014, an Ame­ri­can Enter­pri­se report sum­ma­ri­zed the pro­blem as fol­lows: “The Taliban’s nego­tia­ting record is rife with decep­ti­on. Over the past two deca­des, the Tali­ban has used nego­tia­ti­ons as a ploy to gain poli­ti­cal and mili­ta­ry advan­ta­ge rather than as a means to resol­ve con­flicts.”

In the words of U.S. Pre­si­dent Biden, Afgha­ni­stan has been given “every tool it needs to main­tain sta­bi­li­ty.” Tho­se tools are now in the hands of Tali­ban sol­diers. For­mer Afghan offi­ci­al Ham­dul­lah Mohib says the United Sta­tes “betray­ed” the coun­try by nego­tia­ting inde­pendent­ly with Tali­ban lea­ders and shut­ting out the old govern­ment — some­thing we poin­ted out in last year’s list. The list of mista­kes com­mit­ted by the inter­na­tio­nal com­mu­ni­ty is too long for a For­bes list. To make mat­ters worse, the­re are fier­ce inter­nal nego­tia­ti­ons within the Tali­ban fac­tions.

Many ask: “What was the war about in the first place? If we’­re nego­tia­ting with the Tali­ban now, should­n’t we have nego­tia­ted and saved thou­sands of lives much ear­lier? And should­n’t we have been nego­tia­ting and making deals when they were still guer­ril­la figh­ters and not de fac­to rulers?”

The tide has tur­ned.

1. coro­na­vi­rus vac­ci­na­ti­ons: Why are so many resis­ting?

On the one hand, the issue makes no sen­se. Why would anyo­ne reject a vac­ci­ne that could save their lives and the lives of others? On the other hand, why should peo­p­le trust the exper­ti­se of govern­ment offi­ci­als and sci­en­tists who­se track record is less than stel­lar? Last year, we repor­ted on com­plaints about vac­ci­ne avai­la­bi­li­ty. This year, vac­ci­na­ti­on oppon­ents are in the spot­light.

Why are so many of tho­se who have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be vac­ci­na­ted still not? The­re is no sin­gle reason, but com­mo­n­a­li­ties include doubts about the safe­ty of vac­ci­nes given their rapid deve­lo­p­ment, con­cerns about the side effects of injec­tions, gene­ral dis­trust of govern­ment man­da­tes, and — of cour­se — rumors of a dark con­spi­ra­cy spread by the world’s richest evil­doers.

To make mat­ters worse, many health care pro­fes­sio­nals, com­mu­ni­ty lea­ders, and poli­ti­ci­ans do not want to be vac­ci­na­ted them­sel­ves. In Michi­gan, more than 400 health care workers quit their jobs rather than sub­mit to man­da­to­ry vac­ci­na­ti­on. In Washing­ton sta­te, more than 1,900 sta­te employees cho­se to sepa­ra­te from their jobs rather than be vac­ci­na­ted. The­se decis­i­ons sound ridi­cu­lous to some, but smart to others.

How might we redu­ce ten­si­ons and pro­mo­te unity rather than dis­uni­ty? Here’s an idea: public offi­ci­als should rea­li­ze that they are in the midd­le of a nego­tia­ti­on — to bor­row a book title from my col­le­agues Lar­ry Suss­kind and Patrick Field, “Deal­ing with an Angry Public.” Any time we want someone to do some­thing and they have a veto, we are in effect nego­tia­ting.

And as with any well-orga­ni­zed nego­tia­ti­on, ins­tead of expec­ting peo­p­le to just eager­ly do what they say, govern­ments need to use the modus ope­ran­di of good nego­tia­tors: loo­king behind each other’s posi­ti­ons to unco­ver under­ly­ing inte­rests and fears. Trea­ting nego­tia­tors like idi­ots may cau­se bystan­ders to nod their heads in agree­ment, but it never leads to a “yes” from the other side — espe­ci­al­ly when we all have to get along after that nego­tia­ti­on.

Inte­res­t­ing links

Ori­gi­nal publi­ca­ti­on “Top 10 World Chan­ging Nego­tia­ti­ons For 2022” on FOR­BES.

Live semi­nars in 2022 — open nego­tia­ti­on trai­nings

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