Learn the complexity of political negotiations | GW today

By BL Wilson

At a workshop on simulating climate change, students from the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University joined students from other universities to test their negotiation skills to resolve the issue of climate change. reduction of carbon emissions in the trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Michael Cornfield, associate professor of political management at GSPM, said the idea was to learn “how to negotiate strategically within and between teams [and] gain knowledge about climate change/energy policy and the policy-making process in two different types of political regimes.

In the ballroom of the University Student Center on Thursday afternoon, teams of students from GW, Texas Southern University and the University of Navarre in Spain – about 30 students in all – split into groups representing the interests of the Biden administration, the Republican Party, the current government of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopes Obrador, the Mexican Opposition Alliance, the American and Mexican oil industries, investors, lobbyists and environmental activists. The state of climate change in the United States, Canada and Mexico was among the five issues the students negotiated.

The Mexican and American teams were tasked with determining whether the current trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada should include a provision on climate change that aligns the countries with the commitments made in the Paris Agreement. Mexican teams faced questions about the cost and impact of oil production and reliance on a refinery in Texas and how much to invest in renewable fuels. US groups have debated whether to suspend a gas tax and where to find more than $500 billion to subsidize the advancement of renewable energy.

In the initial stages of the negotiations, the parties involved appeared to be in agreement and willing to compromise. Democrats representing the Biden administration and Republicans have agreed to extend the 45-day suspension of gasoline taxes after prices were pushed up by inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A representative from Pemex, the Mexican government-run oil company, seemed to think it had a deal with the American Petroleum Institute allocating them $13 billion over the next 15 years to rebuild its refineries.

Cornfield said that, as often happens in mock exercises, things were going too well, so he decided “to escalate the conflict with the crisis of an impending hurricane in Houston” which would affect both the United States- United and Mexico. In the final round, only investors, industry lobbyists and the US government seemed happy with the results.

“The American people are resilient, and the hurricane would be an accident, not a disaster,” said Alicia De Haro Acosta, on behalf of the group representing Republicans.

The Mexican government, whose main interest was to increase oil and natural gas production, could not agree with the United States on the trade agreement or attract investors.

Din Hu Cruz, a University of Navarre student who represented Pemex, said the deal with the American Petroleum Institute fell through because the impending hurricane added operating costs to the company. Indeed, Mexico left empty-handed.

GW graduate student Robert Bertha’s role in the simulation was as an industry lobbyist. Bertha said her group discovered that Pemex was trying to strike deals with several organizations, including groups investing in reducing carbon emissions.

“I’m looking at this from what API and the oil industry were looking for and their own business model,” Bertha said. “They would prefer a longer transition to more sustainable green energy.”

Mexican opposition parties complained that they could not convince anyone to negotiate with them, and someone could be heard shouting “corruption”.

Environmental activists took the stage and called for a minute of silence saying, “It’s very sad to see you rejecting us…. The Biden administration and everyone else. You really have to think about what you are doing with our planet and our people. And then as a group, they went out.

A fact sheet released ahead of the workshop noted that more environmental activists have been killed in Mexico than in any other country in the world except Colombia.

Renna Ba, a student at GSPM, found the exercise difficult, especially as a representative of the Mexican government which had little interest in reducing its oil and gas operations and reducing its emissions. “No one from other groups came to see me,” Ba said. “It was me going to other groups to see where we could agree. I think I could have been more effective if I had been assigned to a group I believed in, an environmentalist, and that I had made a more impassioned argument.

Mary Crannell, an assistant professor at GSPM, said she appreciated how the students were able to break out of their normal identities and asked the groups what they learned from the exercise. A student replied: “Your agreements are not always respected. There is a difference between what is said in private and what is said publicly.

Vicky Adams, a graduate student from Texas Southern, who was part of Climate Action 100+, companies investing $65 trillion in emissions reductions, concluded, “People with money rule the world. That’s basically it. We were sort of masters of everything. Everyone was coming towards us.

At the end of the exercise, Cornfield also commented on how impressed he was with the students’ ability to come out on their own: “Students identified some of the recurring difficulties: not knowing the other people at the table , how people change when sessions go public, and how having multiple issues on the agenda can facilitate trade-offs, trade-offs, and substantial accomplishments.

Sharon D. Cole