Thursday, 17 December 2009

The reports from Copenhagen keep getting gloomier


As I write this item just before 10pm on Thursday night, the news from Copenhagen keeps getting gloomier. The Guardian website is declaring that the summit is on the brink of collapse with officials from the three main blocs saying they have given up hope of an agreement. The BBC has the talks still deadlocked while the New York Times has the hopes for an accord failing.
Who knows what the morning will bring when the world leaders take over from their environment ministers and set about trying to salvage their political reputations. I have absolutely no idea but if you like to live in hope I will mention my one experience many years ago of negotiating with Chinese bureaucrats.
It was back in those days before Chinese communism had embraced capitalism and the subject was tea not climate change. In a moment of madness I had decided to import black tea to tackle the oligopoly of Bushells, Liptons and Tuckfields et al. Carefully I had calculated the price I had to obtain supplies and frankly told the officials of the Chinese Government monopoly. After several days of discussions a considerable gap remained between the price I needed and what they said was the lowest they could go. Ah well, thanks for trying. We shook hands and flights home were booked for the next morning.
There at the airport to farewell my little team were the Chinese tea merchant negotiators who duly produced contracts ready for signature agreeing to supply tea at a price lower than I had requested.
Perhaps, just perhaps, this Chinese tactic of testing the nerve of those they negotiate with is being repeated in Stockholm. 
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