Treaty Formation and Reservations

24 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2010

See all articles by Vincy Fon

Vincy Fon

George Washington University - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 25, 2010


This chapter discusses factors conducive to international agreements such as treaties, compares alternative types of international agreements and indicates why treaties may represent the preferred instrument. It describes the different modalities by which international treaties can be formed under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and considers the impact of an international reservations regime on different states. Section 2 discusses factors that provide the foundation for international cooperative behavior, such as coordination and externalities. Section 3 investigates differences between treaties and customary international law, and contemplates the strength of treaties over customary international law. Section 4 undertakes a similar comparison of treaties and non-legal international agreements. Section 5 discusses modalities of formation of treaties, analyzes a state’s incentive problem in deciding whether to be a founding negotiating state or an acceding state, and underscores the relationship between the acceding protocol of the treaty and the treaty content. Turning next to the issue of reservations to a treaty, Section 6 analyzes an applicant state’s ability to express reservations while becoming a party of the treaty, and the effects of reservations and of objections to reservations, under the framework of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. It also considers how successfully the Vienna Convention fulfills competing needs for reservations. Section 7 compares benefits and costs of reserving and non-reserving states to help understand whether the Vienna Convention is neutral toward both types of states. Section 8 summarizes the previous sections.

Keywords: Treaties, Treaty, Formation, Reservation, Customary International Law

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Fon, Vincy, Treaty Formation and Reservations (August 25, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Vincy Fon (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Economics ( email )

2115 G Street, N.W.
Monroe Hall, #366
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-7580 (Phone)
202-994-6147 (Fax)

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