Treaty Signature

THE OXFORD GUIDE TO TREATIES, Duncan Hollis, ed., Oxford University Press, Forthcoming

Posted: 18 Oct 2011 Last revised: 21 Dec 2014

Date Written: October 18, 2011


Under international law, in order for a State to become a party to a treaty, it must express its consent to be bound by the treaty. Such consent can be expressed in a variety of ways, including through signature of the treaty by a proper representative of the State. Under modern treaty practice, however, States often express their consent to be bound by a separate act of ratification that is carried out after signature. When a treaty is subject to discretionary ratification after signature, the signature is referred to as a 'simple signature,' whereas a signature that indicates consent to be bound is referred to as a 'definitive signature'. Part I of the chapter considers why States often prefer simple signature subject to ratification in lieu of other methods of joining a treaty. Part II discusses the international legal consequences of a simple signature. Part III reviews the process by which a State can terminate its signatory obligations. The chapter concludes with a brief consideration of the strategic issues raised by the ability of States to decide not to ratify a treaty after signature.

Suggested Citation

Bradley, Curtis, Treaty Signature (October 18, 2011). THE OXFORD GUIDE TO TREATIES, Duncan Hollis, ed., Oxford University Press, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Curtis Bradley (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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