The Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Treaty Affairs
serves as the principal U.S. government repository for U.S. treaties and other international agreements. The treaty office advises other offices under the Legal Adviser, other Department bureaus (including posts overseas), and other government agencies on all aspects of treaty law and procedure, including constitutional questions, and provides guidance and assistance in the authorization, drafting, negotiation, application, and interpretation of hundreds of agreements annually. It also responds to treaty-related inquiries from Congress, academia, members of the public, and officials of foreign governments and international organizations.
The treaty office oversees the Department's compliance with the statutory requirements of 1 U.S.C. 112a and 112b to report international agreements other than treaties to Congress and to publish international agreements. (Under U.S. law, treaties are those international agreements that receive the advice and consent of the Senate.) These authorities provide, among other things, that an international agreement may not be concluded on behalf of the United States without prior consultation with the Secretary of State, and that reportable agreements must be transmitted to Congress within 60 days of entry into force. In that connection, the office is responsible for compliance with the Circular 175 procedure by which the Secretary authorizes the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements. It often advises on the need for a Circular 175 and additionally reviews hundreds of non-binding instruments annually, to ensure that they do not contain binding language that would create legal obligations for the United States.
The office coordinates the transmittal of treaties to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification and works closely with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff to foster timely action by the Senate.
The office coordinates and conducts treaty signing ceremonies, including ceremonies that involve the President, the Secretary and other cabinet-level officials.
It also discharges the U.S. government's function as depositary for certain multilateral treaties, such as the North Atlantic Treaty, the Antarctic Treaty, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and the Biological Weapons Convention.
The office is responsible for the registration of treaties and international agreements with the United Nations pursuant to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations. Article 102 provides that State Members of the United Nations have an obligation to register treaties and international agreements with the Secretariat of the United Nations, and the Secretariat is mandated to publish registered treaties or international agreements.
Finally, the office publishes Treaties in Force (TIF), which details the over 10,000 U.S. treaties and international agreements in force as of January 1 of each year, and is charged with publication of treaties and international agreements in the Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS).