An International Agreement is a document whereby a State or an International organization assumes obligations and acquire rights before other States or International organizations under international law.
International agreements serve to establish concrete rules to partnerships in specific areas. They may, for example, establish criteria by which tourists from one country are exempt from visa to enter another country. Or they may establish the tax-free entry of products from one country into another. These agreements – often called "treaties", "conventions" or even "agreements" – are legally binding.
International agreements can also serve to identify possible ways for future cooperation. They may, for example, create regular meeting committees to deepen dialogue and mutual understanding between countries, and also to propose specific actions or projects of new agreements. These agreements – commonly called "memoranda of understanding" – are politically binding.
It is possible to find copies of the international agreements signed by Brazil, in Portuguese, on the webpage of the Division for International Acts of the Foreign Ministry. Copies in other languages of the international agreements of Brazil must be requested by email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
International agreements can be established between two or more States or between one or more States and an international organization.
In Brazil, only the President of the Republic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Ambassadors heading Brazilian diplomatic missions abroad are authorized to sign international agreements. In addition, other authorities may sign treaties provided they have a Letter of Full Powers signed by the President of the Republic and countersigned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
If a country fails to comply with an international agreement, its partner will initiate consultations to examine, in detail, the reasons for the noncompliance.
If a country is facing difficulties, but is willing to fulfill the agreement, the two countries can negotiate strategies to enable compliance, which may include extending the deadlines, modifying the original agreement and even celebrating a new agreement.
If this country does not want to be part of the agreement anymore, it will notify its partner of its decision and the agreement will be terminated (denounced).
Some agreements have more elaborated rules for noncompliance. It is the case of agreements among members of the World Trade Organization (WTO): if one country understands it was harmed by another, it can request the WTO to judge the case.
The United Nations Organization (UN) prohibits secret agreements. Therefore, all member countries of the UN are required to make their international agreements public, according to article 102 of the UN Charter.
Some agreements, for dealing with more simple matters and for not creating financial costs to their signatories, enter into force on the date of their signature, with no need for subsequent confirmation from the signatory parties.
Other agreements, for dealing with more complex issues or for creating financial costs to their signatories, only come into force after these signatories confirm the commitment to fulfill them (ratification).
In Brazil, the agreement is ratified, in most cases, only after approval by the National Congress. Exceptions include, for example, loan agreements, which only require the approval of the Senate.
International agreements which result in charges or commitments that go against the national property must be approved by the Congress before entering into force, as provided in article 49.I of the Federal Constitution.
After an international agreement is approved by the Congress, some steps are still necessary for the agreement to come into force in Brazil:
i. The Country informs its partner(s) of the approval and, therefore, confirms its commitment in fulfilling the agreement (ratification);
ii. Its partner(s) also confirm this commitment, in case they haven't done it yet;
iii. The President of the Republic signs the Decree which determines the compliance of the agreement by Brazil (promulgation).
International agreements approved by the Congress may never enter into force if other parties never confirm the commitment to comply with the agreement. Another possibility is if the President decides not to confirm Brazil as part of the agreement, due to changes in the interests of the country and in the international scenario.
It is possible to search if an international agreement of Brazil is in force on the Foreign Ministry's Division of International Acts webpage.