Treaties and the Law: Definition & Examples
- Track Progress
- 0:05 Definition of Treaty
- 1:59 How Treaties Are Made
- 2:53 The Use of Treaties
- 3:36 Examples of Treaties
- 5:01 Lesson Summary
A treaty is an express agreement entered into by official representatives from two or more independent governments. Treaties are law. This lesson explains what a treaty is and how treaties are used.
Definition of Treaty
A treaty is a formally concluded and ratified agreement between independent governments. When we say that treaties are formal, we mean that treaties are written agreements. When we say that treaties are ratified, we mean that treaties must be approved by all of the parties to the treaty before the treaty can take effect.
A treaty is an exchange of promises, much like a contract. Let's say that Canada promises to fully open its borders to U.S. citizens, and in exchange, the U.S. promises to give the entire state of Michigan to Canada. This agreement would be written down and then approved and signed by both the U.S. president and the Canadian prime minister.
Treaties are international agreements. Independent states, international organizations or countries can make treaties. A treaty requires at least two parties; these treaties are called bilateral treaties. A treaty can include many parties; these treaties are called multilateral treaties. Treaties are sometimes called conventions, pacts or accords. Once executed, a treaty becomes international law and is binding on the parties to the agreement.
Article VI, clause 2 of the United States Constitution tells us that, 'All Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.' This statement is part of the supremacy clause and means that treaties become a superior part of our federal law system. Only the Constitution itself ranks as higher law.
How Treaties Are Made
Article II of the Constitution gives the president the power to make treaties with other countries on behalf of the United States. The president uses treaties in order to conduct foreign policy. However, the president doesn't act alone. Many people are involved in the process of making a treaty.
Officials with the Department of State, which is a part of the executive branch, negotiate the treaty. Once negotiated, the treaty is sent to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent. The Senate considers the treaty and must approve the treaty by a two-thirds vote. The treaty is then sent to the president for execution. The president executes the treaty by signing it. The treaty is officially ratified once all parties to the treaty have signed it.
The Use of Treaties
Throughout history, nations have used treaties in order to formalize agreements and foreign policies with one another. Treaties have been used for many different international issues, such as peace, trade, land disputes, human rights and immigration.
Many international treaties are administered by the United Nations. The United Nations is an international organization of countries set up to promote peace and security. Notably, the United Nations was, itself, created by a treaty. The U.N. Charter established the United Nations in 1945, just after World War II.
Examples of Treaties
There are many well-known treaties. For example, the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 between Great Britain on one side and America and its allies on the other. The Treaty of Paris is an example of a peace agreement. This treaty ended the Revolutionary War.
Many people don't realize that the Louisiana Purchase was a treaty. Thomas Jefferson executed the agreement in 1803 and secured the purchase of Louisiana from France.
More recently, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, is a treaty between the United States, Canada and Mexico. It was signed in 1992, though it didn't become effective until 1994. This treaty was created to eliminate barriers to trade, such as tariffs, between these nations.
One of the most extensive treaties is the Geneva Convention. There are actually four Geneva Conventions, with 194 ratifying countries. The most recent convention was in 1949, though three protocols have been added since then. These treaties address wartime issues. They establish guidelines for battlefield casualties, prisoners of war and the treatment of civilians.
Treaties are formal international agreements between independent governments. They are written promises, like a contract, that are binding on the parties to the agreement. The Constitution grants the president the power to make treaties with other countries. Once executed, treaties become a part of international law. In the U.S., treaties also become a part of our federal law.
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Chapters in Business 103: Introductory Business Law
- 1. History of American Law (6 lessons)
- 2. Sources of Law (15 lessons)
- 3. American Legal Systems (12 lessons)
- 4. Legal Procedures (11 lessons)
- 5. Contract Law Basics (19 lessons)
- 6. Capacity in Contract Law (4 lessons)
- 7. Contract Law and Third Party Beneficiaries (3 lessons)
- 8. Contracts: Assignment and Delegation (4 lessons)
- 9. Contracts: Statute of Frauds (7 lessons)
- 10. Contracts: Scopes and Meanings (6 lessons)
- 11. Contracts: Breach of Contract (11 lessons)
- 12. Contracts: Discharge of Contracts (5 lessons)
- 13. The Legal Environment (2 lessons)
- 14. Property Law (10 lessons)
- 15. Employment and Labor Law (13 lessons)
- 16. Creditors Rights (4 lessons)
- 17. Product Liability and Consumer Protection (6 lessons)
- 18. Torts (13 lessons)
- 19. Agency (7 lessons)
- 20. Types of Business Organizations (7 lessons)
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