The Top 6 Negotiations That Changed the World

Negotiation has shaped the world in countless ways. In fact, some of the most pivotal moments in history have been born out of successful talks. Here are six influential agreements that transformed the world, according to The Negotiation Experts.


In June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The decision has been nicknamed “Brexit.” It remains one of the most complex political negotiations in recent history.

So, what lit the fuse? The pro-Brexit campaign argued that the UK would be better off by leaving the EU and regaining control of its borders and laws. The UK and EU negotiators hammered out a 585-page report over numerous rounds of talks.

The UK finally cut the cord in January 2020. The monumental decision had a global impact, which affected Eurozone geopolitical relations and economic matters. As part of the deal:

The UK ceased to be part of the single Eurozone free trade market. This meant the introduction of duties and tariffs for businesses. It also resulted in countries around the world having to re-negotiate trade deals with the UK.

UK citizens lost the right to freely work in other EU countries. Likewise, EU citizens need legal work documentation to work in the UK.

A new border was created between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In the end, Brexit’s long-term effects remain to be seen.

Abolition of Slavery

The abolition of slavery was a long and difficult process. The earliest attempts at diplomatic talks came as early as the 18th century. That’s when Britain sought to outlaw the transatlantic slave trade. Efforts continued through the 19th century.

The most notable moment in the abolition of slavery came from Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln declared that “all persons held as slaves” should be considered forever free. His decision marked a huge shift in American history. The proclamation offered hope for enslaved people everywhere that a better future may be possible.

To abolish slavery, the 13th amendment needed ratification. Negotiations between the states and the federal government had to occur. Finally, on December 6th, 1865, Secretary of State William H. Seward made a crucial announcement. He officially proclaimed that enough states had ratified the 13th amendment.

The outcome of the negotiations gave voice to the fight for the full emancipation of slaves. The Civil Rights Movement was born which to this day, in its many different iterations, continues to fight for equal rights and full access to the descendants of slaves.

Treaty of Versailles

After the devastation of World War I, the victorious Allied powers gathered to negotiate a peace settlement with Germany. The negotiations were fraught with tension.

Each country had its own agenda and priorities. Great Britain wanted to ensure that Germany would never again become a threat to Europe. France wanted revenge and reparations for the devastating losses they had incurred.

The Soviet Union demanded recognition of its borders and influence. Ultimately, a treaty was reached, effectively ending World War I. The framework would eventually become the League of Nations.

However, not everyone was happy with the outcome. Many Germans felt humiliated by the treaty’s terms. This anger would later fuel extremist political movements like Nazism and the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Camp David Accords

In 1978, tensions between Egypt and Israel were at an all-time high. The two nations had been in a state of war for decades. There appeared to be no end in sight.

However, something remarkable happened. The two countries agreed to enter negotiations. Discussions took place over several months at Camp David. One of history’s most famous people– President Jimmy Carter – played host.

Success was hard-fought as Egypt and Israel had deeply entrenched positions. Carter’s skillful mediation skills were pivotal. After about 2 weeks of intense back and forth, a breakthrough was reached.

The Accords called for Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula. In exchange, Egypt would recognize Israel as a legitimate state and establish diplomatic relations with it. Also, the two countries agreed to cooperate on economic and security issues.

This momentous dialogue marked a turning point in the stability of the Middle East.

Reagan-Gorbachev Summit

The Reagan-Gorbachev Summit was a pivotal moment in world history and diplomacy. The summit heralded a new era of cooperation between the two superpowers – the United States and the Soviet Union. The meeting’s legacy continues to this day, with the US failing to meet most of this treaty’s terms.

The negotiations began in 1985, spearheaded by both US President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev. Discussions were crucial at this time allowing the two heads of state to discuss potential solutions to the Cold War tensions that had been building for decades.

On the table were topics such as arms control, human rights, and economic cooperation. After lengthy discussions, the two leaders agreed to a series of agreements including:

  • The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty)
  • The Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START)
  • A series of joint ventures between the two countries.

The Paris Peace Accords

The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 stamped a temporary end to the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War had been raging for over a decade by this time. There was immense destruction and suffering in the region.

Research shows that around three million people lost their lives in the conflict. Millions more were severely injured and displaced. Facing intense media pressure and widespread protests, the US government sought to negotiate a peace agreement in 1973.

Present were representations from the United States, North and South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Negotiators ran into many hurdles. One was the demand for monetary payments from the United States to North Vietnam in exchange for their withdrawal of forces. Another was the issue of prisoner exchanges.

The US wanted all prisoners of war to be freed, while the North wanted only those held by South Vietnam. Ultimately the countries reached an agreement. The Accords included the stipulation of a ceasefire and US withdrawal from the region. It also granted North and South Vietnam autonomy.

For better or worse, these six negotiations still shape our present world. The outcomes also provide valuable lessons for some of today’s toughest problems.

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