Kluwer Law International. Printed in the Netherlands.
American Strengths and Weaknesses
TOMMY T.B. KOH
Institute of Policy Studies, Han Sui Sen Memorial Library Building, Kent Ridge Drive,Singapore 119260
FormerAmbassadorofSingaporetotheUnitedStatesTommyT.B.Kohreﬂectson American negotiating strengths and weaknesses. Koh also served as president of the ThirdU.N. Law of the Sea Conference, Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for and main Com-mittee at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), 1990–1992,and UN’s Special Envoy to Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
U.S. negotiating style
American Strengths and Qualities
Two caveats are appropriate for any discussion of national negotiating styles.First,theremaynotnecessarilybeadeﬁnablenegotiatingstyleforeachcoun-try or people. Good and effective negotiators, irrespective of their nationalor cultural background, have certain common skills. Second, although it isprobably possible to say impressionistically that the American people pos-sess certain character and personality traits, there are many exceptions to therule, and a person’s negotiating style is inevitably affected by his character,temperament, and attitude toward people.American negotiators have many strengths and qualities. If distance makesthe heart grow fonder, my perception of Americans may be unrealisticallyfavorable and idealized, since Singapore is located 12,000 miles away fromthe United States.First,U.S.negotiatorsareusuallywellprepared.Theyarriveatnegotiationswiththeirhomeworkcompleted,andtheyarearmedwithfacts,ﬁgures,maps,andcharts.Theyusually knowwhat their nationalinterests are and what theirnegotiating objectives are. This is not always the case among Third Worldnegotiators.Second, American negotiators tend to speak clearly and plainly. As some-one who was educated in the Anglo-Saxon legal tradition, I regard this as avirtue, not a liability. However, the American preference for plain speakingcan sometimes cause unintended offense to other negotiators whose national
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