The Logic of Treatymaking

33 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2022 Last revised: 4 Jun 2023

See all articles by Kevin L. Cope

Kevin L. Cope

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: February 14, 2022


This article develops a positive, decision-theoretical model of the logic that states use in drafting, negotiating, approving, and ratifying multilateral treaties. Unlike other models of non-cooperative bargaining in the economics and political science literatures, this one is developed around the several dynamics unique to treaty-making. The fact that states may opt-out of an undesirable treaty means that treaty-making entails a three-stage decisional process unique in democratic lawmaking. Moreover, both treaty externalities and the quantity and character of future members affect states’ decisional logic during negotiations. The model shows how a rational state considers the distribution of treaty traits—its production of public, club, or private positive or negative goods—to maximize its utility during the treaty’s three stages. The model might form the basis for empirical methods, which, together with the theories presented here, could improve our understanding of past negotiations and facilitate more fruitful future international cooperation.

Keywords: treaties, international law, legal theory

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Cope, Kevin L., The Logic of Treatymaking (February 14, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Kevin L. Cope (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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