Stages of an international agreement

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The stages of an international agreement:

International treaties are nothing more than agreements among sovereign states to assume certain obligations regarding, among others, the protection of copyright. It is crucial to understand how, when and to what extent the provisions of international treaties create binding rules for the countries which signed them and for their citizens. For this reason we shall shortly examine the steps leading to the conclusion of an international treaty and its implementation.

As long as governments agree that they want to regulate a certain issue at an international level, they enter into negotiations. Negotiations can be conducted either ad hoc, such as the Berne Convention, or within the framework of an existing institution, such as the TRIPs agreement, which was the result of the negotiations leading to the creation of the WTO. During the negotiations, draft provisions, usually prepared by specific countries or by an appointed person, are presented to the delegations of each state, which then discuss them and may propose amendments to their content. Such proposals sometimes are made by a group of countries that form a coalition in order to defend their common interests more efficiently. For example, the inclusion of the TRIPs agreement was the culmination of a program of intense lobbying by the United States, supported by the European Union, Japan and other developed nations; it was opposed by many developing countries, most notably Korea and Brazil, but also Thailand, India, and Caribbean states.

Once consensus has been reached, the states conclude the treaty by signing it. However the treaty does not enter into force at the moment of its conclusion, but it has to be ratified according to the national law of each country. Ratification is the act of giving official sanction or approval to the treaty; it typically is achieved by following the same rules that govern the passing of laws in most democracies. From that moment, the provisions of the international agreement enter into force.

States that did not take part in the negotiations of a treaty may still join the treaty later by accession. If the treaty is open to the participation of new member states, accession occurs through the ratification of the Treaty by the new member state, without any modification of the original agreement. If this is not the case, accession implies a new agreement between all member parties.