The value of a deal in today’s politics

Am I the only one to worry about the fact that elected officials seem to care less and less about the value of existing deals?

We have had Trump (on team USA) simply ripping up the nuclear deal with Iran and the Paris Climate accord. We have seen team UK wanting to “negotiate anew the relationship” with the EU in a self-imposed Brexit move (followed by politicians in most EU countries running on similar platforms). Today, Columbia has a new President elected on the promise to renegotiate the peace treaty with the FARCs, that they deem too generous with the ex-rebels. Last week, the G7 countries bend over to reach a common communique that would suit the USA, who did not wait hours before shredding it into pieces.

A significant part of our social relationships are based on contracts, that we expect both parties to implement willingly. Negotiating is not only a good relationship at the table, and a signature at the bottom of a document. A deal has to last. Landlords expect tenants to pay rent until they leave the premises. We expect our insurance companies to help us when we need it the most, even years after contracting the policy. Etc. This list goes on almost indefinitely.

Culturally, we need not give way to people who want to renegotiate, simply because a deal does not work for them. Hear me correctly, there may be good reasons to renegotiate existing deals, and there usually are mechanisms in place for this. But a new CEO, or a new President, that would simply consider deals signed by his predecessors (or himself of the past) as void cannot be enough.

I think it is important to change the discourse. Yes, we may want to renegotiate deals, but we should express this without entirely disqualifying past deals (and their signatories). Otherwise, trust will decline rapidly. We may also need leaders that are above all good negotiators, with the ability to balance short-term (read: electoral) with long-term objectives. The less powerful the common rules, the more the personality of our leaders will count.

Otherwise, we will see more and more of what happened last week between Donald Trump and Kim Jung-un: the signature of an agreement on very vague terms, with no guarantees, nor safeguards offered by either party, with little chance of being implemented at all (remember: North Korea, over decades, has a history of not respecting international agreements – will they start now?).

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