Many people confuse arbitration with mediation.  They are not the same thing and they are not interchangeable.  On this blog, I rarely delve into the world of politics and international relations.  However, I will given a comment made by President Trump on his trip to the far east.

Control over areas of the South China Sea has been in dispute between China, Vietnam and the Phillippines.  It is an area heavy in shipping traffic as well as undersea oil and gas reserves.  China has been asserting control by building artificial islands.

In the midst of President Trump’s Asian summit, he said:

“I am a very good mediator and a very good arbitrator.  If I can be of help in any way, let me know.”

Arbitration is where a neutral makes a decision for the parties.  This is akin to a private judge.  Mediation is the art of a neutral helping parties come to their own agreements, decisions, and solutions.

First, I question whether the United States is neutral.  We have significant dealings with China, importing a huge amount of goods.  The Phillippines used to be a US colony and the US has military bases located there.  The US also has a growing trade relationship with Vietnam.

Second, mediation is an art that requires training and experience.  Given the president’s attempts to mediate internal disputes within his own party and Congress, I would certainly question his capabilities in this area.

Mediation is a profession.  If we want to help countries resolve their disputes, let’s send in truly neutral professionals who can help.