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I've made a number of posts in the past bit pointing that Trump isn't very good at negotiating. One thing he consistently does is start with a big opening, and then back off later, presumably getting what he really wanted the whole time. That's called anchoring, and it is a common negotiating tactic, especially in sales. For example, the original price is $100, but the sale price is only $80! The $100 figure gets anchored in your mind as the value, and so $80 sounds pretty good. The problem with making the anchor too big is that people think you are bluffing, and the anchor doesn't work. Interesting article in the NYT today on this very topic regarding Mexico's views of Trump and NAFTA:

But on Wednesday, the suggestion from the White House that Mr. Trump was finalizing an executive order to begin the process of withdrawing the United States from Nafta revealed a different, more experienced Mexico: one learning to live with what it considers Mr. Trump’s bluster and stagecraft, and not inclined to react publicly too quickly.

“It seems like he’s sitting at a poker table bluffing rather than making serious decisions,” said Senator Armando Ríos Piter, a Mexican legislator. “In front of a bluffer, you always have to maintain a firm and dignified position.”

...In interviews with politicians, analysts, economists, business leaders and former diplomats, a general sentiment had emerged throughout the day on Wednesday that Mr. Trump’s threat to withdraw from the treaty using an executive order was mostly a piece of political theater — aimed as much at his voting base as at Mexico and Canada — and not something to get terribly worked up about.

In other words when Trump threatened to withdraw from NAFTA, the Mexicans simply rejected the anchor. Only a few hours later, Trump reversed his position on NAFTA and the Mexicans got what they wanted (for the US to remain in NAFTA) without having to give up anything in return. Mexico played Trump like a fiddle.

In an earlier post today, I mentioned how Trump was trying to negotiate with the Democrats on health care by offering them two things, neither of which the Democrats wanted. Since the Democrats didn't want those things it made rejecting Trump's offer a no-brainer. From the same article (emphasis mine):

Antonio Garza, a former United States ambassador to Mexico, called Mr. Trump’s possible executive order “hardball,” adding, “It’s probably not the way to deal with a counterparty that is both a longtime trading partner and critical to so many security, immigration and counterterrorism initiatives.”

The pros use words like "counterparty." Pro negotiators don't try to beat the other side, the pros understand that most of the time the best way to get what you want is to help the other side get what they want. It isn't just about NAFTA, there is all this other stuff too. Sure, you can go hardball on one thing and "beat" the other side. But you miss out on getting lots of other things you want too. Smart negotiators realize there are lots of things that we place a high value on that Mexico places a low value on, and we can have them for just asking. And vice versa. Both sides can wind up with a lot by simply trying to understand each others' interests. If you go hardball, you don't get those wins.

A great book on negotiating I recommend for everyone is called "Getting More" by Stuart Diamond.

One thing Diamond teaches in the book is the hardball, used car salesman tactics like Trumps uses actually aren't all that effective, and there are many more better, more effective techniques that work better, especially over the long term. One thing he says never to do is exactly what Trump did: Get caught bluffing. Because if you get caught once, you will be viewed a bluffer forever.

I hope the lower level negotiators understand those lessons, because the boss sure doesn't.
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