If you engage in international negotiation, you can improve your odds of success by learning from these 10 well-known international business negotiation case studies:
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When Apple CEO Timothy D. Cook apologized to Apple customers in China for problems arising from Apple’s warranty policy, he promised to rectify the issue. In a negotiation research study, Professor William W. Maddux of INSEAD and his colleagues compared reactions to apologies in the United States and in Japan. They discovered that in “collectivist cultures” such as China and Japan, apologies can be particularly effective in repairing broken trust, regardless of whether the person apologizing is to blame. This may be especially true in a cross-cultural business negotiation such as this one.
In this negotiation case study, an eight-story factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing an estimated 1,129 people, most of whom were low-wage garment workers manufacturing goods for foreign retailers. Following the tragedy, companies that outsourced their garment production faced public pressure to improve conditions for foreign workers. Labor unions focused their efforts on persuading Swedish “cheap chic” giant H&M to take the lead on safety improvements. This negotiation case study highlights the pros and cons of all-inclusive, diffuse agreements versus targeted, specific agreements.
Microsoft made the surprising announcement that it was purchasing Finnish mobile handset maker Nokia for $7.2 billion, a merger aimed at building Microsoft’s mobile and smartphone offerings. The merger faced even more complexity after the ink dried on the contract—namely, the challenges of integrating employees from different cultures. International business negotiation case studies such as this one underscore the difficulties that companies face when attempting to negotiate two different identities.
With the economy of the tiny Mediterranean island nation Cyprus near collapse, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Commission teamed up to offer a 10-billion-euro bailout package contingent on Cyprus provisioning a substantial amount of the money through a one-time tax on ordinary Cypriot bank depositors. The move proved extremely unpopular in Cyprus and protests resulted. The nation’s president was left scrambling for a backup plan. The lesson from international business negotiation case studies such as this? Sometimes the best deal you can get may be better than no deal at all.
The European Union (EU) held a summit to address the coordination of economic activities and policies among EU member states. German resistance to such a global deal was strong, and pessimism about a unified EU banking system ran high as a result of the EU financial crisis. The conflict reflects the difficulty of forging multiparty agreements during times of stress and crisis.
Negotiations between North Korea and South Korea were supposed to begin in Seoul aimed at lessening tensions between the divided nations. It would have been the highest government dialogue between the two nations in years. Just before negotiations were due to start, however, North Korea complained that it was insulted that the lead negotiator from the South wasn’t higher in status. The conflict escalated, and North Korea ultimately withdrew from the talks. The case highlights the importance of pride and power perceptions in international negotiations.
Then-U.S. president Barack Obama canceled a scheduled summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing a lack of progress on a variety of negotiations. The announcement came on the heels of Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who made confidential data on American surveillance programs public. From international business negotiation case studies such as this, we can learn strategic reasons for breaking off ties, if only temporarily, with a counterpart.
In recent years, several nations, including China and Japan, have laid claim to a chain of islands in the East China Sea. China’s creation of an “air defense” zone over the islands led to an international dispute with Japan. International negotiators seeking to resolve complex disputes may gain valuable advice from this negotiation case study, which involves issues of international law as well as perceptions of relative strength or weakness in negotiations.
When then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, announced a deal to prevent the United States from entering the Syrian War, it was contingent on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s promise to dismantle his nation’s chemical weapons. Like other real-life negotiation case studies, this one highlights the value of expanding our focus in negotiation.
When the United States and five other world powers announced an interim agreement to temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program, the six-month accord, which eventually led to a full-scale agreement in 2015, was designed to give international negotiators time to negotiate a more comprehensive pact that would remove the threat of Iran producing nuclear weapons. As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted that Iran had a sovereign right to enrich uranium, the United States rejected Iran’s claim to having a “right to enrich” but agreed to allow Iran to continue to enrich at a low level, a concession that allowed a deal to emerge.
What international business negotiation case studies in the news have you learned from in recent years?