Oslea puts its cards on the table in trade negotiations with the Aneolwah Islands. Ballencek again faces his arch nemesis
“I hate this intersection,” grumbled Lt. Ballencek. “It doesn’t matter which direction you’re coming from or what time of day it is, you will always stop here. And it’s a Forever Light.” He raced the motor of the ancient Isuzu Trooper II.
Ambassador Harman leaned against the passenger door and crossed his arms. “I don’t think you’ll be able to intimidate the light to turning green.”
“We’ll see about that.” He raced the engine again. The light remained red. Ballencek lowered his head like a cat surveying its prey and tensed his fingers on the steering wheel. He watched the signal. He spotted one of the opposing lights turning from green to yellow. “Hold on!” he exclaimed as he threw the Trooper into gear.
The opposing light switched from yellow to red. Ballencek’s did not turn green. Instead one of the other signals at Five Points allowed other cars that had just arrived to pass through. The Security Officer leaned his forehead onto the steering wheel. “I hate this intersection.”
Ballencek opened the door to the Oslea Komerca Hejmo and allowed Harman to enter before following him in. They walked up the steps to the Administrative Suite and were greeted by the assistant for Prime Minister Chief Of Staff Matteo Taft. “Welcome, gentlemen!” She said cheerfully. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Thank you,” Harman replied. “Sorry we’re a little late.”
“Five Points,” Ballencek offered.
The woman nodded in sympathy. “Yes, of course.”
“Prime Minister Lucero Pierce is…?” Harman questioned.
“Not available,” she answered.
She brightened up and motioned toward a double door. “The others are here and waiting for you in the conference room.”
Harman pulled the door and entered the room. His watchful security aide stayed in the lobby. The ambassador approached the long glass-topped table surrounded by chairs. A flag of the nation of Oslea hung from the rear wall. The Oslea Prime Minister Chief Of Staff sat at the end of the table under the flag. Matteo Taft, dressed in his usual white suit, nodded at Harman in greeting.
A woman rose from her seat to the left of Taft and extended her hand as she approached Harman. “Good to meet you, Ambassador Harman. I’m Sullivan Levigis , Trade Representative for the Aneolwah Islands.”
“The pleasure is mine.” Harman shook her hand. “I hope I can help mediate a mutually agreeable end to this trade war. There really are no winners in a trade war.”
Levigis nodded her head, “Agreed.”
Harman and Levigis sat on opposite sides of the table with Taft in the chair at the end between them. Taft reached into his jacket pocket and removed several index cards. He shuffled them before placing them in a row in front of him.
“Oslea placed 136 percent tariffs on marshmallow pies from Aneolwah,” Levigis began. “This creates a huge burden on your customers and our manufacturers.”
Taft said nothing.
Levigis continued, “We will enforce retaliatory tariffs of 136 percent on sugared drinks from Oslea. We need to protect our native soft drink manufacturers from the predatory tactics of the O Cola Company.”
Taft flipped over one of the cards. It read “Garlic.” He pulled a pair of dice from another jacket pocket and rolled them onto the table. He rolled a seven.
“70 percent!” Levigis exclaimed. “That’s crazy!” Taft picked up the dice, handed them to Levigis, and waved his hand across the table. “I guess so.” She rattled them in her hands for a moment, stuck her tongue out in concentration, and tossed them onto the table. The usually emotionless Taft smiled slightly when the dice turned up a 9 for 90 percent.
“No no no no no,” the Trade Representative protested. She snatched the dice off the table and handed them to Harman. The ambassador looked at the two die in his hand and then looked up. “You’re the mediator, Mr. Harman. Mediate.”
Harman shrugged his shoulders and let the dice spill onto the table. They came up with 11 for 110 percent.
Levigis fell back into her chair. “Ok. Fine. But we will increase inspections of cargo coming from Oslea into the Port Of Sciuro Kago.”
The Chief Of Staff flipped another card. “Visa Waivers Cancelled.”
The color drained from Levigis face. “You can’t do that.” Taft leaned back and folded his arms across his chest.
“I would have to agree with Ms. Levigis,” Ambassador Harman said. “I know things are strained right now but requiring visas for business leaders to travel would make it even harder to find solutions.”
Taft was unmoved. Business was business.
“We also have many families that have close relatives in both countries,” Levigis noted. “Do you really want to make it difficult for them to attend birthday parties and weddings or your own Butterscotch Festival?”
The Oslea official leaned forward and picked up the card with one hand. He examined it for a moment then tore it in half and put it aside. “I think that was a wise move, Mr. Prime Minister,” Harman said.
Taft flipped yet another card. “Skin Care Imports Banned.”
“Wow.” Levigis said in a low voice. “That represents nearly half of Osela’s usage.”
The Prime Minister's Chief Of Staff stood up and walked out of the room.
Levigis dialed a number on her cell phone and put it to her ear. “What do you think, Ambassador Harman? She asked as she waited for the person on the other end of the call to answer.
“I think we’re going to have dry and cracked hands for a while.”