After five years of intense negotiations, trade representatives from twelve nations emerged with an agreement that would impact 40 percent of the global economy.
TPP negotiations began in earnest in March 2010. They included 19 rounds of formal discussions, followed by more than a dozen meetings for chief negotiators. The majority of conversations were conducted face-to-face, over the course of 200 days.
In the United States, there were more than 1,150 meetings regarding TPP held between the Obama administration and members of Congress. According to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, these meetings allowed elected leaders to review transcripts, ask questions and in some cases, preview future negotiations.
There were also meetings for stakeholders. “Negotiators engaged with several hundred stakeholder representatives, including leaders of civil society groups, on a broad range of issues,” Froman said, adding, “This kind of interaction help[ed] us ensure that our trade policy is driven by the values that define and distinguish our economies and societies.”
So whether you support TPP or not, you must admit that the process of bringing people together in-person allows for robust negotiations that produce real outcomes. It’s anchored in the idea that when people meet face-to-face, relationships are developed in a way that technology cannot recreate or match.
As two people who have dedicated their careers to bringing people together, it’s a process we applaud. We know that the ability to look a person in the eye and read his or her body language cannot be overestimated – in life, in business or in diplomacy.
Lest we forget that TPP negotiations have been extremely complex. They’ve involved advanced, middle income and developing economies. Representatives have brought to the table different priorities, beliefs, expectations and cultural norms. Yet, by meeting face-to-face, these individuals have been able to focus on the task at hand and talk through policies in real-time. They have able to work together to develop solutions and build on the momentum and energy we all feel when brainstorming new ideas.
The stakes here could not be higher. The issues surrounding TPP have raised conflicts and sensitivities, not only among our elected officials but between nations. And amidst so many conversations about the future of America’s foreign relations – in 2016 and beyond – these negotiations remind us that when the world is watching and a consensus is needed, there is no replacement for government leaders who meet face-to-face and at the end of the day, are able to see things eye-to-eye.
This blog post was originally published by The Hill.