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Participating in the Open Trade Asia Negotiation Stimulation (OTANS) held in Hong Kong gave me the opportunity to enhance my negotiation and teamwork skills as well as make new friends.

OTANS is a trade education initiative organized by Asia Society, Hinrich Foundation and Hong Kong America Center, aiming to provide university students and young professionals the opportunity to learn from experienced trade negotiators and subject-matter experts about the workings and dynamics of trade and international relations.

During this two-day event, 41 participants from nine universities were divided into seven groups representing different countries: the US, China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. All the participants were required to act as senior-level trade negotiators in discussions about four urgent disputes on services, digital economy, fisheries and food. The negotiators were tasked to reach a consensus at the end of the meeting on the second day.

Without doubt, the negotiation was tough, as every team represented the interest of a country and there are inevitable conflicts on the interest of various countries. Consequently, to reach an agreement, both negotiation and compromise are important. Fortunately, after two days of intensive negotiation, all the countries voted for the closing communique and the event ended in success.

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Participants of the Open Trade Asia Negotiation Simulation in Hong Kong pose with organizers after the successful event.

Learning from professionals & each other

I found that to have a successful negotiation, good preparation is necessary. My team did a lot of research to learn about the issues and the relevant industries. We knew what the situation of our country was; thus, we knew what proposals would be beneficial to us.

Hearing from professional negotiators during OTANs allowed me to learn more about what a negotiator is and the skills necessary to become. Some statements that stuck with me were:

“You need to step in the other’s shoes” and “It’s better to walk away from a bad deal than to accept it,” from Stephen Olson, Hinrich Foundation’s Research Fellow.

“You need to consider what you will lose if you reject the proposal and walk away,” from Michaela Browning Australia Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macau.

These were some of the words that helped me a lot in my discussions with delegates of others teams. I believe they will benefit me in my future career.

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Sharon (front center) shares a moment with the other members of the South Korea team.

Additionally, thanks to the event, I made a lot of new friends. I was grouped into the South Korea ream, where I met my five excellent partners. It was a great honor to meet and work with these talented people and I was amazed by their great ideas and the skills they demonstrated. Working with them enhanced my teamwork skills.

About the author – Sharon Sheng
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Sharon Sheng became a member of the Hinrich Global Trade Leader Development Program in 2017. She is completing her bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in marketing, at the Hong Kong Baptist University. Sharon’s goal is to be an excellent marketer, one capable of noticing customers’ needs, providing value to customers and coming up with effective marketing plans.