Trump's 'Art of the Deal' Diplomacy Will Fix WHO Failings

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As China shrinks from the truth that it hid a pandemic and recruited the World Health Organization as a co-conspirator, President Trump is playing a hand that he — and the people of the world — are sure to win.

As one of the true experts in understanding the “art of the deal” and the purpose of a deal, Trump knows when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, and when to double down. The president has already wielded this weapon to bring Washington’s bloated bureaucracies to their knees and to hold their defenders to account. Now he’s taking aim at an international organization that The New York Times and others have outed as a lumbering, corrupt, and politically polluted organization more intent on protecting its turf than the people of the planet.

The recent decision by the administration to withdraw funding to the WHO is another example of his get-it-right-or-else doctrine in dealing with recalcitrant international organizations trying to hold onto power on the pretense that they deserve to be empowered.

Trump’s basic strategy to achieve results is as follows: Issue a strong (potentially unattainable) demand upfront with a strict timeline (while preparing to make good on your threat), followed up by clarifying specifics that lead to an eventual compromise. This strategy has been implemented with great success throughout his presidency and will likely serve as a road map in his bout with the WHO.

The president was correct when he attested the WHO is an unchecked bureaucracy that is completely bought and paid for (literally) by the Chinese. Many U.N. technical bodies are often overlooked and completely controlled by strategic competitors to the United States. In these organizations, the highest bidder often gets the keys to the kingdom in terms of power and authority, which leads to biased reports and harmful policy. The World Meteorological Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Civil Aviation Organization are just a few others in a similar position.

The debate in the Washington swamp is robust about how we fix this problem: exponentially increase the money and resources devoted to these organizations, or withdraw. One thing is clear -- many of these small but influential entities need radical reform in order to meet their mandates instead of being propaganda arms of the Chinese Communist Party.   

We’ve seen the path to victory in challenging recalcitrant U.N. agencies from the Trump administration before. Take, for example, the Universal Postal Union, a sleepy organization that governs the flow of international mail. Few have heard of the UPU, but almost everyone has been impacted by its policies. The UPU effectively operated as a price-fixing cartel that made it cheaper to send a package from Beijing to New York than to send the same package from Manhattan to Brooklyn. When a package is shipped to the United States, the origin country delivers it to an entry point in the U.S., and from there USPS takes the package the “last mile” and is reimbursed by the foreign post. For decades the rates charged for last mile reimbursement were too low; that, coupled with the boom of e-commerce, led to an import subsidy to the tune of billions of dollars. Net importers were being gouged on price, while net exporters were making out like bandits.

The Trump administration’s strategy to deliver reform in the UPU was simple:

1) Firmly demand fair rates upfront 

2) State a strict timetable with an actionable threat: one-year time period or else we withdraw

3) Clarify specifics that lead to a deal

President Trump is the consummate deal maker because people always take his threat seriously, as articulated in the UPU saga because “he might just be crazy enough to do it.” The closer negotiators get to that cliff, the more likely they are to meet American demands. In the case of the UPU, they did. With a firm road map and strong will, President Trump was able to get a deal that significantly benefits Americans.

The war plan for the WHO is still taking shape, but so far it draws a striking similarity to that of the UPU.

President Trump’s strategy at the WHO may be second-guessed by sensationalist pundits, but the truth is they have never had to belly up to the table and get a deal done for the American people. Gone are the days of backseat leadership; this administration has mastered the art of the deal, delivering wins that put America first. Time will tell if President Trump’s resolve will deliver the same results for the country as we’ve previously seen in his victories to reform antiquated U.N. organizations.

Hunter Morgen is a former special assistant to the president for policy and strategy in the Trump White House, and currently a senior adviser at Ballard Partners in Washington, D.C.

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