Hinrich Foundation holds first Open Trade Asia Negotiation Simulation for students
I and other Hinrich scholars were honored to participate in the Open Trade Asia Negotiation Simulation (OTANS), a Model United Nations style of trade negotiation where students gain a better understanding of international trade, experience negotiating for trade agreements and develop the essential skills of a trade negotiator.
OTANS: More than just a negotiation skills training
Organized by Hong Kong America Center, Hong Kong Asia Society and Hinrich Foundation, OTANS is a model-UN style simulation of trade negotiation where students learn about global trade. It focuses on two main areas, trade in goods and services and intellectual property, and gives student participants the platform to develop the skills of a senior trade negotiator, ready to work with others and find a common ground among countries with different agendas.
During the simulation, consular officers, trade researchers and experts delivered in-depth speeches to help students gain a better understanding of open trade and international relations, as well as the role of the World Trade Organization in shaping future trade agreements in Asia.
Stephen Olson, Hinrich Foundation’s international trade research fellow, provided students with an overview of real trade negotiation scenarios. He, along with the other advisors, taught students essential skillsets and techniques when establishing multilateral trade settlements.
The students, on their part, did not just come to the event to listen. They discussed and rehearsed the simulation with their teammates, which not only gave them the chance to learn about trade but also make new friends from students from other universities.
Acting as a senior trade negotiator from the Philippines
Before I was granted a Hinrich Foundation scholarship, I had very little knowledge of trade. But after two years of working and learning, I found myself at the round table of the Pacific Trade Alliance with other delegates from six countries – China, India, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam and the US – talking about free trade.
Vietnam was the host country of the trade negotiation, and my role was to act as the Philippines’ Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. My goal, as well as the other ministers’, was to search for new agreements that would develop and strengthen my represented country’s economy. What rested on my shoulders was not only the livelihood of millions of people, but also the future of my represented country.
I spent hours discussing intensively with my team about my nation’s objectives on trade in goods and services and intellectual property rights before delivering a successfully ambitious but friendly opening statement at the first round of negotiations.
As senior and professional trade negotiators, my teammates and I challenged other countries on their assertions as fiercely as they contested us so that all nations would end up with a mutually beneficial consensus.
After a week-long negotiation, the member states of the Pacific Trade Alliance issued a joint communiqué, reaffirming their commitment to the principles of open, transparent and free trade. The communiqué also outlined the Alliance’s agreements on rice and consumer electronic goods tariffs, digital commerce, patent protection for biological products and the elimination of counterfeit products.
In the end, it might have been a simulation, but through it, I got a feel of what it was like to be an international trade negotiator. From the speakers and my teammates, I picked up new skills and learned how to find a common ground among countries that would lead to the creation of multilateral agreements.
Best of all, I learned how to work with a team and have loads of fun along the way – even when I made mistakes. No one was shy because the coaches and advisors were always helpful and encouraging along the way.
Overall, this experience has made me realize how lucky I was to be a Hinrich scholar, having a chance to learn more about the international trade through hands-on experiences, and has made me further believe that it is us who will help bring a sustainable and fair trade among all countries.
About the author – Moon Nguyen