Student negotiators representing 8 countries successfully reached consensus on a Multilateral Free Trade Agreement at the 3rd annual Hinrich Trade Negotiation Simulation (HTNS) at the Asia Society in Hong Kong.

Fifty-two university student ‘senior trade negotiators’ participated in this intense experiential learning program hammer out an agreement on four trade issues – services and digital economy, food and fisheries.

The event commenced with remarks from Hinrich Foundation Program Director Alex Boome, who introduced the program and its benefits to the students. He was followed by Executive Director of Hong Kong – America Center Glenn Shive, who gave valuable inputs to students on negotiations and briefed on the importance of the four trade issues that will be negotiated between the 8 country teams.

Student negotiators reach consensus at 3rd annual Hinrich Trade Negotiation Simulation in HK 1
Opening remarks by Glenn Shive (left) and Alex Boome (right)

The Hinrich Foundation organized the program with the Hong Kong – America Center. The objective is to deepen delegates’ understanding of how tough trade negotiation is and their global impact.

It is designed to encourage students to learn and understand the challenges and opportunities in the international trade arena, while developing their negotiating skills as future potential trade negotiators. The high-level discussions and debates stimulated by the program on real-world trade issues help students understand the effects and benefits of global trade.

The US Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macau, Kurt Tong, gave the keynote speech on Day 1. He emphasised the importance of trade and how countries around the world have benefitted from the free trade. He also touched upon a myriad of trade agreements, including NAFTA, CPTPP, RCEP and their importance in creating a mutually beneficial trade relations.

“HTNS is very useful for students to understand the context of global trade and investment and get a sense of what is happening in the world,” Tong said. “While practicing negotiation skills, the most important part is listening.”

US Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau, Kurt Tong, speaks on the importance of trade agreements and the value of the Hinrich Trade Negotiation Simulation.

Hinrich Foundation Research Fellow Stephen Olson briefed the students on key strategies for trade negotiation. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This is a multidimensional chess game.”

Student negotiators reach consensus at 3rd annual Hinrich Trade Negotiation Simulation in HK 2
Students negotiators engaged in discussion over their country stance. Stephen Olson advising students on negotiation strategy.

Teams representing India, Japan, China, USA, Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and Korea kicked-off country caucuses to formulate strategies, designate roles, objectives and priorities.

Day 1 concluded with the 8 country teams putting forward their demands that benefits their country and people.

The students negotiators came back from a week’s break, each team motivated to resolve all trade issues and publish a joint communique. Day 2 began with keynote speech from Australia Deputy Consul-General Ken Gordon, whose expertise is negotiating trade agreements for Australia, including time at the WTO in Geneva.

“Trade negotiators are made, not born,” said Gordon. “Students will learn the importance of team building, working as member of the team, making constructive contributions, being able to communicate effectively among team members but also across the table.

“The ability to think strategically, think of the bigger picture, how and what you are negotiating fits into the overall deals. Another skill that would be an important pickup is the skill of listening.”

 

Australia Deputy Consul-General Ken Gordon talks on negotiation skills.

After two rounds of sector negotiations among the country teams, a final plenary was called upon to vote and affirm the communique announcing terms of the Multilateral Free Trade Agreement. The students successfully agreed on the text of the communique and looked forward to creating mutually beneficial trade relations.

The simulation concluded with a final remark of appreciation and distribution of certificates to all student negotiators.

Student negotiators reach consensus at 3rd annual Hinrich Trade Negotiation Simulation in HK 3
Eight country teams working on the text of final communique. A group picture with all the participants.

After the event, the participants were invited to attend the Hinrich Foundation Alumni Association reception at Hong Kong Maritime Museum. There, overlooking the harbour at the crossroads of global trade with Asia, the students celebrated their success with Mr. Hinrich, trade leaders, scholars, alumni and guests.

The simulation was covered by South China Morning Post, read the full feature story here

To know more about Hinrich Trade Negotiation Simulation, click here.

About the author- Pragya Bhatnagar

Hinrich Foundation launches Indonesia Digital Trade Report in Jakarta 2Pragya Bhatnagar is a Research Associate with the Hinrich Foundation where he focuses on International Trade Research. He is a Hinrich Foundation Global Trade Leader Scholar alumnus, earning his Master’s degree in International Journalism, specializing in Business and Financial Journalism, from Hong Kong Baptist University. He received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from Lucknow University, India.