Essay about Pre-negotiation Process

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Diplomacy consists of different functions, including negotiation, collection of information, clarifying intentions, and promoting goodwill.  However, negotiation is the most critical function. Team of expert writers from Original Essay company ready to give you a new research on this topic.

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Negotiation occurs frequently in international relations. Countries hold bilateral and multilateral negotiations. He increased cases of conflict around the world due to differences in interests and points of view on issues has made negotiation vital in finding solutions. However, the success of negotiation depends on the planning done before the actual talks. The pre-negotiation phase of negotiation is necessary to prepare for the real discussion and ensure all parties collaborate in reaching an agreement. The talks stop or stall because parties do not trust each other, they do not understand one another or see the discussions as important. Therefore, the paper illustrates why pre-negotiation is the most important stage in negotiation using two case studies. The case studies include the development of the Iran nuclear deal and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The countries involve succeeded to reach the agreements because of the role of pre-negotiation. It helped create a conducive environment for talks. Pre-negotiation facilitated the development of respectful and honest relationships and the building of trust, which paved the way for the real talks.


Negotiation refers to the process by which conflicting parties reach an agreement. Different cultures have a diverse understanding of the negotiation process. Europeans and Americans consider the negotiation process linear. It entails being aware of the issue and the need to address it, exploration, pre-negotiation, setting the agenda, further exploration, and give and take. Other steps are making a decision, end the negotiation, implementing the solution, evaluating it, and renegotiation. They believe there is a specific point where parties should start and end. In Asia and Africa, negotiation is viewed circularly, and hence the process does not end (Meerts 2015).

The negotiation process consists of three stages, including prenegotiations, formula, and detail. Pre-negotiation is considered part of the whole proves of negotiation. It is an integrated process that allows representatives of parties involved in the conflict to prepare for negotiation by jointing identifying the conflict issues, generating alternatives to collaboratively solve them. They also structure the content and the process for negotiations in the future (Rothman 1990). Other scholars believe pre-negotiation is a distinct process from negotiation. Pantev (2000) believes that the pre-negotiation stage is a critical structuring activity that identifies the boundaries and the participants. Nonetheless, the pre-negotiation process cannot be separated from the negotiation process as it helps prepare for negotiations. It is a necessary condition for negotiation as it contributes to the success of the process.

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Pre-negotiation is also known as the preliminaries, and it refers to different activities conducted before the first phase of formal substantive or round-table negotiations. It is critical as it helps break barriers in personal relations if one of the parties does not use it to buy time.  The stage is aimed at agreeing on different issues. The parties involved in the conflict find it hard to agree there is a need to negotiate. They are not all convinced that there is a problem. The parties are not ready to accept that negotiation is the only strategy to resolve the issue. Therefore, agreeing on the need to have negotiations can take many years because of the complexity and fragility.

Acknowledging a stalemate is challenging as a party that suspects it is weak increases the temperature and at the same time puts out the feelers for negotiation. A party that believes that the other side needs the negotiated outcome more than it insists on preconditions. It wants the conditions met before it enters into substantive discussions. After accepting the stalemate, the parties agree that a negotiated solution is better than the current situation. They agree that they have different interests, and the failure to resolve the issues will lead to negative consequences. The parties should develop a framework that can be used to solve the problem. The two sides will have to give something to ensure the process is successful. Empathy, imagination, and intelligence are necessary to develop a solution (Berridge 2015).

Iran and the United States had to agree there was a need for discussions on Iran’s production of nuclear weapons. Iran violated the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty in 1968 as it developed nuclear technology. The US Atomic for Peace program headed by Shah helped Iran produce the weapon technology. Iran stopped the nuclear program in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution as those involved in the production left the country. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini failed to reinstate the program as he objected to nuclear technology. However, Iran resumed the production with the help of Russia, China, and Pakistan. However, Iran did not believe there was a problem with nuclear production as it claimed the nuclear program, was for civilian purposes. In contrast, the US believed it was used to develop nuclear weapons.

In 2002, dissent groups in Iran disclosed that the government had failed to declare two facilities and hence violated the nuclear agreements reached before. Therefore, Iran entered into an Agreement with the UK, France, and Germany. However, President Obamas noted Iran had an enrichment facility in Fordow. He claimed Iran failed to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the facility (Sterio 2016). Therefore, Iran had to agree its nuclear production was a violation of the nuclear agreements signed previously and the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty in 1968 before the parties to prepare for negotiations (Sterio 2016). The bilateral and multilateral sanctions imposed on Iran affected its economy and political relations around the world. Therefore, it agreed to the talks to improve the economy and oil and gas trade. It also wanted to develop infrastructure and enhance its relationship with other countries. Hence, a diplomatic agreement was important for it to show it only produced civil nuclear technology and avoid suspicion and develop trust. On the other hand, the EU3 +3 countries were aware that sanctions would not force Iran to stop the nuclear program. Using the military to end the nuclear facilities was not realistic, and other nations in the United Nations Security Council were not willing to back America to attack Iran. Iran increased the enrichment programs each time sanctions were imposed (Mousavian and Mousavian 2018).

Pre-negotiation was also important when crafting the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The US government held preliminary talks with Congress before he gave a 90-day notice of his decision to begin negotiations. The government consulted the U. S Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, the Senate, and House Advisory Groups. The office of the US Trade Representative held public hearings before producing the objectives for the negotiations. America admitted there was a problem that needed to be solved.  The US wanted to reduce the deficit, add a digital economy chapter, and improve the labor and environmental responsibilities in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (Congressional Research Service 2020).

Political conditions at home or in other countries impact the launch of the negotiation process and its success. They affect the parties’ decision to agree to negotiate.  Leaders should be domestically secure to give increase their confidence and overcome the notion that they are planning to sell out to the rival. In democracies, leaders take advantage of the impending elections to launch the negotiations. They believe that the new government will make an unpopular decision as leaders believe that citizens have forgotten, or they have the support of voters.  In authoritative countries, substantive talks are held before negotiations to deal with hardliners.

Leaders of parties that are hostile towards each other can take advantage of the situation to start negotiations. They will be in a better position to defend themselves against accusations they are motivated by their sympathy for the enemy or insufficient understanding of the country’s priorities and ideologies. They can control their followers. Parties agree to negotiate if incidents that result in bad feelings, including terrorism and exchange of fire, are stopped. It is critical in the pre-negotiation stage as the cost of exiting is low.  Also, Leaders to make more demands and provide an excuse to avoid or end the initial contact. The political conditions in the US and Iran determined when the talks between the two countries would be held (Berridge 2015).

Most people expected President Obama to start the negotiations with Iran in 2009. The President made a little progress, but he was forced to proceed carefully as the American presidential elections were to be held in November 2012 (Berridge 2015). In Iran, the political conditions were not appropriate, and this delayed the talks. The political leadership in Iran prevented serious bilateral discussions with the US. However, the election of President Hassan Rouhani in June 2013 provided an opportunity to have discussions. The US held preliminary and private talks with Iran in Oman and other places before the election of President Rouhani, which made it easier to reach the P5+1 nuclear deal.

The talks held during the pre-negotiation stage were critical to establishing a frank and positive communication with political leaders in Iran and create the right environment for formal negotiations on nuclear disarmament after the 2013 elections (Sterio 2016). The communication started months before the 2013 elections in Iran, and they led to a positive outcome.  Rouhani, in August 2013, called for the restart of serious talks with the West on the country’s nuclear program three days after his swearing-in.  President Rouhani and President Obama talked on the phone in September 2013. The telephone conversation was the first contact between senior leaders in the two countries since 1979. Also, John Kerry, the Secretary of State, met with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and it indicated the two nations had started to negotiate and collaborate (Sterio 2016).

Pre-negotiation is critical as it helps determine the agenda for the negotiation. In this case, parties consider what will be talked about and the prioritization of the items. The agenda-setting is challenging as the content of the agenda can be controversial. The language used to define the agenda can show that one party is willing to concede a critical point. The breadth of the agenda can be great and cause fear if the other party thinks it can be used as a propaganda tool.   An unclear agenda allows topics that are embarrassing to be discussed, and they can be detrimental to the other party. The order of the agenda items can also be controversial. A party involved in the negotiation wants the items critical to it and those that it is anxious to get a concession included first. The party that gets concessions early creates an image that is strong and has fewer challenges in maintaining the confidence of the supporters.  Also, the other party can feel generous on the first items on the agenda as it hopes it will be paid back later through it is not guaranteed (Berridge 2015).

The preliminary meetings between the United States and Iran helped determine the agenda of the negotiation, which was nuclear disarmament (Sterio 2016).  Other items in the agenda included sanctions imposed by the P5+1 members and Iran suspending parts of its nuclear program. The P5+1 members agreed to reduce the sanctions if Iran suspended portions of the nuclear program (Sterio 2016). The United States, Mexico, and Canada identified different items that formed the agenda for the negotiations on replacing NAFTA with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The items included increasing market access for dairy farmers in the United States and capping the exports of automobiles to America. Other items included the improvement of cross-border trade by increasing the value of de minimis shipment, Mexico to enact a law that enhances the collective bargaining capacity of labor unions. Additional items discussed included improving environmental responsibilities and the digital economy (Foreign Trade Information System 2019).

The pre-negotiation phase helps parties agree on the procedure that will be used during the pre-negotiation stage, which contributes to its success. The format of the talks is determined. The parties establish whether the negotiations will be direct where the partiers meet face to face or indirect. In indirect negotiations, the intermediary is identified, and his or her responsibilities are stated. In multilateral negotiations, the parties determine whether the talks will be held in a parallel bilateral discussion or a multilateral conference, or both. The format chosen is based on different factors. The format is determined by the party’s opinion on what is appropriate for their interests. Weaker countries choose to negotiate with stronger countries in multilateral settings that are governed by procedural rules. Thus, they increase their chances of establishing a coalition with willing parties.

On the other hand, stronger states find the rules a challenge as they do not want to be seen as if they are taking advantage of them.  Apart from the format, the venue is important as a weaker country that opts to negotiate on the home ground of the other country is always afraid of its weaknesses being exposed. However, parties discuss different options if they have equal power. They choose a neutral ground, try to meet each other halfway, or choose to alternate home location. A certain venue can help in propaganda. Other countries opt for the home ground to facilitate delegations and eavesdrop on the visitors. In friendly relationships, countries prefer to use embassies instead of envoys. In this case, a country chooses to be away from home as it makes the embassy the intermediary between the two parties, and this ensures its communication to the foreign state are delivered faster and securely to appropriate persons. The size of the delegation is not always a problem in negotiations. However, sending a small delegation can be an indication of the party is not serious.

A large delegation can indicate a commitment to the purpose, but it can lead to accommodation and security issues. The lead negotiator is imperative, and parties determine whether the discussions should take place at the ministerial level or official during pre-negotiation.  Having a delegation that is mixed and includes ministers is critical to addressing the issue of delegation. Lastly, timing is vital as parties get to establish when the negotiation should begin during pre-negotiations. Some states opt to begin the talks immediately, but it can indicate weakness. In this case, negotiators’ commitment should be considered, and radical arrangements should be made. The parties should allocate adequate time to prepare the briefing papers and consult.  The discussions take longer if more parties are involved or the issues discussed are critical to the parties (Berridge 2015).

Iran and other P5+1 members opted to have multilateral talks about nuclear activities in Iran. Foreign ministers from the countries met in different locations: Oman, Geneva, and Lausanne. The pre-negotiation phase led to numerous rounds of negotiations on the nuclear program in Iran. The countries signed an interim agreement (the Joint Plan of Action) on November 24, 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland. The agreement involved Iran temporarily suspending parts of its nuclear program and then the P5+1 decreasing the economic sanctions. The countries started to implement the interim agreement on January 20, 2014 (Sterio 2016).

The parties agreed to continue with the discussions to reach a long-term agreement. The countries agreed on the original deal framework on April 2, 2015, in Lausanne, Switzerland. Iran agreed to accept the restrictions on the nuclear program for at least ten years. It also agreed to have the program and facilities inspected. The last contentious talks were held in 17 days in Vienna in June and July 2015. The countries reached an agreement informed by the framework created on April 2, 2015, and signed on July 14, 2015 (Sterio 2016).

United States, Mexico, and Canada agreed to have multilateral negotiations when developing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).  The parties carefully selected the negotiators and the location. The talks involved government officials from the three countries, and they met in different places. The countries agreed to alternate the locations. The first round of talks happened in Washington, DC, and experts met for five days to discuss the agenda items. The second round of discussions occurred in Mexico City in Mexico. They discussed the issues from September 1 to September 5, 2017. The third round of talks happened in Ottawa, Canada, from September 23 to September 27, 2017. The parties held the fourth round of talks in Arlington, Virginia, from October 11 up to October 17, 2017.

Thirty groups participated in the discussions, which lasted seven days. The fifth round of negotiations included close to 30 groups, and it happened in Mexico City. The members ended the discussions on November 21, 2017. The members met in Montreal in Canada for the sixth time to talk about the modernization of the NAFTA. The talks started on January 23, 2018 and ended on January 29, 2018. The last round of talks happened in Mexico City and ended on March 5, 2018. The US and Mexico had a preliminary agreement on August 27, 2018, Canada, Mexico, and America agreed on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on September 30, 2018. The countries signed the USMCA on November 30, 2018 (Foreign Trade Information System 2019).


In conclusion, pre-negotiation is an important stage in diplomatic negotiations that cannot be overlooked.  It determines the success of the negotiations by helping nations develop strong relations and also eliminating suspicion. The stage allows countries to identify the issue and accept it needs to be resolved to avoid negative consequences. Moreover, pre-negotiation facilitates the setting of the agenda, election of the venue, time, and negotiators. The development of the USMCA and the agreement to stop nuclear enrichment in Iran showed the importance of pre-negotiation. The parties involved in the discussions had different interests and perspectives on the issues raised. However, they agreed there was a need to resolve the challenges they were facing. In the nuclear deal, the parties agreed to the agreement as it was a win-win. The deal reduced Iran’s sanctions, and it helped stop nuclear enrichment. In USMCA, Canada, Mexico, and the US agreed to enact an agreement that ensured trade balance between the countries.  Government officials held several meetings in different locations chosen to discuss contentious issues and reach an agreement. Pre-negotiation contributed to the success of the meetings and the positive outcome. Hence, countries should spend more time on the pre-negotiation phase when developing agreements and resolving conflicts. Preparing adequately for the discussions and ensuring all parties are on the same page will make it easier to resolve the conflict. The P5+1 countries and Iran succeed in resolving the nuclear production problem as they were committed to the discussions, and each had the chance to benefit economically, socially, and politically. Canada, Mexico, and the United States managed to resolve contentious issues related to the NAFTA and craft the USMCA because of sufficient preparations and good relationships. The nations were devoted to finding a win-win solution that would promote social and economic development.