Trade Negotiator for a Week

Term break for MBA 2018 was about to end but that didn’t stop us to look for programs that would make our free time productive.

In a two day event, we were joined with undergraduates specializing in international studies and diplomacy to take on the role of a senior trade negotiator. Each School was assigned with a country that they would represent throughout the program.

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This event would not be possible with out the sponsorship of Asia Society and Hinrich foundation in which they conducted these simulations and the other programs inviting different students of varied academic backgrounds. In fact, this was the third time that the foundation conducted its Open Trade Asia Negotiation Simulation.

Through them, the participants were given their respective country material for them to review, study, and develop a strategy to defend their national interest while achieving a consensus with the other country “delegates”. For two Saturdays, the participants had to battle out and play a “chess game” of words in order to win over the representatives.

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The first day was conducted in FEU Makati and the activities were light and fun at the same time. Obviously, the “country delegates” were adjusting and getting the feel of the other delegate’s main objective. The day ended by each stating their main agenda and defining each country’s respective stance leaving a period of five days till the next discussion day.

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On the last day of the program, the “delegates” battled it out to close deals, agreed on modifications, and finally, reached a mutual agreement. To make the simulation even more real, the organizers added a twist of having “secret messages” from respective country leaders that each participants represented. The message could go from having an emergency state or imposing strict importation guidelines that could either change each country representative statements or put them at an advantage.

Here are some comments of the participants on how the event went and how it felt to be like a senior trade negotiator for a day:

“Steve was right. It’s all about pressure. Time pressure due to the time constraint, pressure from the current situation of your own country, pressure to make everything work for the region, pressure to reach a consensus, and pressure from other external factors.” – Jemima Melgar from San Beda University

“I felt the pressure negotiators face: the need to know a wide range of issues even up until to their nitty gritty details, the tension to consider one’s national interests vis-a-vis the welfare of the region. The time constraints and the sudden diplomatic messages which influenced the stance of one’s country really challenged me to be creative, cautious, and precise in my thoughts and language” – Lorenzo Pangilinan from Ateneo de Manila University

“I am extremely glad that I have decided to participate in the Open Trade Asia Negotiation Simulation (OTANS) Manila 2018. The simulation made me realize that trade negotiations particularly in the ASEAN is not so simple as just a Yes or No. Every country has its own interests and problems, and that makes the negotiations more complicated as everyone must come to a consensus in the end, else, the negotiations are all in vain. OTANS Manila gave us the opportunity to feel how trade negotiations in the real world feels like” – Rhey Joseph Daway from Asian Institute of Management, MBA 2018

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There you have it. You heard it from the participants themselves. At the end of the day, the exercise may not be totally related, if you are not pursuing a trade negotiator career track. But, it does give you a simulation scenario where you can practice your negotiating skills, reading between the lines, and a little creative acting to get things in your favor.

The event went off without a hitch and I would recommend it to current and incoming AIM Students. If you want to participate in similar programs or just would like to look for more learning opportunities, feel free to visit or email our dear CSO officers.

Words by Ralph Norman Malana from Master in Business Administration 2018

Photographs by Ralph Norman Malana, Hinrich Foundation, and Asia Society



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