Study Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations

There are several foreign policy objects that US presidents were aiming to achieve by means of the Panama Canal Treaty Negotiations.  First and foremost the US was hoping to gain control of the canal and to defend it from any threat.  The US also wanted to utilize it a way to transport cargo for the US and other foreign countries, make necessary repairs and updates to the canal, and set up a toll system so Panama would make $.

30 per every ton that went through the canal.  In 1977 negotiations were successful, and a new Panama Canal Treaty was signed. It set up a US and Panamanian controlled control, but returned the Panama Canal to Panama.  The US would share in control the canal until December 31, 1999, when Panama at last would have full control.Ambassadors Bunker and Linowitz took several steps to meet the challenge of managing internal divisions and were assigned to work together because they had skills that would compliment each other.  They had unlimited negotiation leverage with the hopes to quickly break down bureaucratic barriers.

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  Their first step as a team was to sway the American public, against much opposition, to their side and promised not to give away the canal.  The word was spread through nation wide speeches by state representatives.  They also agreed upon the fact that excluding congress from previous decisions had a negative effect in the senate.  Bunker and Linowitz set up meetings including Senators.In the early 1970’s this case is a case of extreme politic debate.

  There was much opposition by the American Public and presidential candidates used the treaty negations as tool to heighten their political campaigns.  Looking back at negotiating skills learned earlier in the semester it is important to note that each situation needs to be evaluated differently.  With the proper negotiating skills the case was had the potential of a win/win outcome.  Without the proper negotiating techniques the treaties would have fallen through and both Panamanian and American Governments would have been angry.Some of the most difficult task would be to find an agreement that both the Panamanian and American government would agree on.  Negotiating the US duration of defense and post treaty relations was proven to be a very difficult task.

  Panama wanted the US military out by 2000.  The US strongly held the position that they needed to remain there for an additional 50 years to kept any potential threats at bay.  Because it was difficult to come to terms an additional treaty was formed called the Neutrality Treaty in which the US agreed to withdrawal troops by 2000 and Panama agreed the canal would remain neutral after this time.  These treaties were agreed upon and signed on August 19, 1977.Just a few days after the treaties were signed a discrepancy was pointed out; “Dr. Escobar responded to Panamanian critics who claimed that the Neutrality Treaty gave the United States the right to intervene in Panama after the year 2000 by stating that ‘with the neutrality pact we are not giving the United States the right to intervene…What we are giving them is the assurance that the Canal will remain permanently neutral, that we are not going to close the Canal to their ships or those of any other country”.

This process proves that as a negotiator it is important to be aware of every point you are negotiating.  Consider that after long and tedious negations the two sides, Panama and America, were able to come to an agreement on two separate treaties.  Days after it was signed it was discovered that negotiations once again may not have been clear enough.  It was brought to the attention of both sides. It was nicely stated by US Senator Baker when he said “there clearly in my view, is a disagreement on what neutrality means.  Neutrality means what each side says neutrality means.

  Unless the two sides agree, there is no agreement”.   This reality caused ratification of the treaties that would go through April of the following year.Internal differences had everything to do with how this treaty was handled from beginning to end.  Remember that at first Ambassadors Bunker and Linowitz were brought in first to convince the American public and then to sweet talk congress. When the treaties were being ratified there were many discrepancies and arguments among the senate.  It is important to keep in mind there were many internal debates but that is a necessary construct to make sure all hands in the government are making decisions which are in the best interest of the nation.