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Foreign, Comparative & International Law

LibGuide to accompany course of the same name taught by Professor Staci Pratt

The Treaty Process: Illustration

Right click on image to enlarge.

Travaux Préparatoires:  official materials documenting the drafting, negotiations and discussions which take place in creating a treaty. 

Key Concepts

Treaties possess different names: international conventions, international agreements, covenants, final acts, charters, memorandums of understandings (MOUs), protocols, pacts, accords, and constitutions for international organizations.

  • Usually these different names have no legal significance in international law (see next section for the difference in U.S. law).
  • Treaties may be bilateral (two parties) or multilateral (between several parties) and a treaty is usually only binding on the parties to the agreement.
  • An agreement "enters into force" when the terms for entry into force as specified in the agreement are met. Bilateral treaties usually enter into force when both parties agree to be bound as of a certain date.  

Source:  What are Treaties & International Agreements?International Legal Research Tutorial.  See also UN Treaty Reference Guide.


A Brief Treaty Lexicon in Mark Engsberg and Mary Beth Chappell, Globalex: UPDATE: An Introduction to Sources for Treaty Research.


Research Tip from Duke International Legal Research Tutorial
 U.S. treaties and agreements are available from many different sources.  To locate the treaty you need, remember: 

  • these sources differ 
  • consult more than one of the sources 
  • Call the Department of State's Office of Treaty Affairs at (202) 647-1345 for up-to-date treaty information.
  • Or, if you are looking for a very recent treaty which has been submitted to the Senate for advice and consent, contact the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at (202) 224-4651.

Treaty Making Process

U.S. Treaty-Making Process

Outline of the U.S. Treaty Making Process
  • Secretary of State authorizes negotiation.
  • U.S. representatives negotiate.
  • Agree on terms, and upon authorization of Secretary of State, sign treaty.
  • President submits treaty to Senate.
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers treaty and reports to Senate.
  • Senate considers and approves by 2/3 majority. President proclaims entry into force.
Outline of the U.S. Agreement Making Process
  • Secretary of State authorizes negotiation.
  • U.S. representatives negotiate.
  • Agree on terms, and upon authorization of Secretary of State, sign agreement.
  • Agreement enters into force.

Source:  Duke, U.S. Treaties and Agreements: The Process, International Legal Research Tutorial, at http://law.duke.edu/ilrt/treaties_3.htm.

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