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WHAT IS A TREATY?

A treaty is a formal, written agreement between sovereign states or between states and international organizations. In the United States, treaties are negotiated through the executive branch, which includes the Department of State. Once the negotiators have accepted the terms of the treaty, the president sends the treaty to the U.S. Senate for its “advice and consent” on ratification, or endorsement. If the Senate agrees that the president should ratify the treaty, it goes back to the president and he ratifies the treaty with his signature. International agreements not submitted to the Senate are known as “executive agreements” in the United States, but they are considered treaties and therefore binding under international law.

Treaties are a serious legal undertaking both in international and domestic law. Internationally, once in force, treaties are binding on the parties and become part of international law. Domestically, treaties to which the United States is a party are equivalent in status to Federal legislation, forming part of what the Constitution calls “the supreme Law of the Land.”

International agreements not submitted to the Senate are known as “executive agreements” in the United States, but they are considered treaties and therefore binding under international law.

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