A treaty T is signed by two state actors A1 and A2.

It says:

  1. Both sides agree to put in place a single customs territory (described herein) for an interim period of two years (described herein).

  2. Both sides will use best endeavours, in good faith, abiding by their respective legal orders, to negotiate the agreements referred to in declaration D.

Declaration D (another document) says:

  1. Both sides have agreed this declaration. This declaration accompanies T, that has been endorsed by A1 and A2, subject to ratification.

  2. This declaration establishes the parameters for future economic cooperation between A1 and A2, to take effect immediately after the interim period defined in T.

  3. For the period beginning immediately after the interim period defined in T, both sides agree to develop an economic partnership that builds on the single customs area defined in T.

Are the agreements within D legally binding in international law? In other words, does the positioning of provisions in a separate document, linked with the "good faith" article, change things?

If the answer is no, if a new executive government is elected within A1 on a platform that differs from D, by what legal mechanism could the agreements in D be reneged on?

The heart of my question is this: does the positioning of provisions in a separate document, linked with the "good faith" article, change the legally binding nature of the contents of the other document?

I realise that a country can simply walk away from a treaty obligation, but I am assuming that both states operate within the rules-based order as far as possible.

  • Unreadable questions, whether because of gibberish text or inaccessible formatting, are worth a downvote to me.
    – user4657
    Sep 20, 2019 at 10:40
  • 1
    @Nij I don't find this unreadable.Nor unclear. Sep 20, 2019 at 12:44
  • 2
    Thanks for ignoring the entire point. I'm glad nothing is ever a problem for you and therefore shouldn't be considered a problem for others.
    – user4657
    Sep 20, 2019 at 21:35

2 Answers 2


A treaty (or contract) spread across multiple documents is just as binding as one in a single document.

A treaty, once ratified, is enforceable by courts with relevant jurisdiction - these may be specific international courts/tribunals like the International Court of Justice or the Court of Arbitration for Sport or domestic courts in both/either country (treaties detail which).

Other answers have pointed out that there is no enforcement mechanism should a nation state choose to ignore such a judgement but there can be serious consequences to that state or its leaders - sanctions, seizure of foreign assets, travel bans etc.

  • That is true, which means not binding at all. Sep 20, 2019 at 22:33
  • The key question for many purposes is whether it would be enforceable in the domestic courts of the treaty violator.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 20, 2019 at 23:04

In a practical sense there is no such thing as an agreement that is "legally binding in international law". Any nation can at any time renounce any treaty. The consequences are not some sort of international lawsuit. They are the loss of international reputation, lack of cooperation from the other party or parties to the renounced treaty, possible retaliatory action such as trade sanctions, and in an extreme case, military action.

Nations rarely renounce treaties arbitrarily, because doing so would make it harder to enter into other treaties, not because some legal mechanism prevents this.

In some cases membership in an international organization is conditioned on a nation adhering to some particular treaty or treaties, and a nation that does not do so may be expelled from the organization.

In the case described in the question, the government of A1 could send formal notice to A2 that it is renouncing D, and will not consider itself bound by it. It could do this after an election, or just a change of policy. It might be more likely to try to renegotiate D on terms more to its liking, but that is a policy and PR choice, not a legal requirement.

  • Thank you. It seems clear to me that A1 could not renege on specific provisions in T without breaking the rules-based international order, because A1 is a signatory. But could A1 renege on a provision in D and remain compliant of said order? In other words, does the positioning of provisions in a separate document, linked with the "good faith" article, change things?
    – 52d6c6af
    Sep 20, 2019 at 13:20
  • The opening paragraph is simply not true - there are a number of international courts and tribunals which rule on international “lawsuits”. Yes a country can ignore them at the risk you suggest but an individual can ignore a domestic lawsuit as well - with consequences.
    – Dale M
    Sep 20, 2019 at 22:12
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    Yes there are many such "courts" and "tribunals". But any country can opt out of any of themn at any time, as the US did from the International Court of Justice. There are reputational consequences, but nothing like the consequences for an individual who tries to defy a court order from a national or local court that has jurisdiction. Sep 20, 2019 at 22:37
  • @Ben countries do in fact "break the rules-based international order" by withdrawing from treaties from time to time. But if you're asking about the technical effects of putting some of the terms of an agreement into a separate "declaration," that's not particularly clear from the question as it stands now.
    – phoog
    Sep 20, 2019 at 22:52

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