Distinguishing Between Treaties & Agreements

Treaty vs. Agreement

In everyday language, the terms “treaty” and “agreement” are often used interchangeably. However, there is a subtle distinction between the two. In fact, a treaty can be considered a specific type of agreement. To better understand these differences, it’s essential to examine the meanings and characteristics of treaties and agreements.

What is a Treaty?

A treaty is a formal written agreement between states, typically relating to matters such as peace, the end of war, alliances, trade, territory acquisition, or dispute settlement. Treaties can be bilateral (between two states) or multilateral (among several states) and are legally binding under international law. Some treaties create law only for the states that are parties to that particular treaty, while others develop into customary international law, binding upon all states.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) outlines the rules relating to interstate treaties and provides the basic framework for their nature and characteristics. Treaties are typically concluded through the process of ratification, and their formulation and signing depend on the intention and agreement of the concerned states.

What is an Agreement?

An agreement is a mutual understanding between two or more persons or entities. In legal terms, an agreement can refer to a contract that is legally binding on the parties involved. Agreements are legally enforceable only if the parties intended to create legal relations, and they outline the rights, duties, and obligations of a negotiated arrangement.

Agreements can take various forms, such as conditional agreements, contracts, deeds, trade agreements, and express agreements where terms and conditions are explicitly declared by the parties involved. Agreements can also be made between individuals, corporations, organizations, and other entities with legal personality.

Key Takeaways

  • An agreement refers to any legally enforceable understanding between two or more legally competent parties, while a treaty is a specific type of agreement made between states or international organizations.
  • Treaties are more formal and direct methods of creating international law, whereas agreements can be made between various entities, including individuals and corporations.
  • Both treaties and agreements outline the rights, duties, and obligations of the parties involved, but treaties specifically focus on the international scene.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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