The “Circular 175 procedure” refers to regulations developed by the State Department to ensure the proper exercise of the treaty-making power. Specifically, the Circular 175 procedure seeks to confirm that the making of treaties and other international agreements by the United States is carried out within constitutional and other legal limitations, with due consideration of the agreement's foreign policy implications, and with appropriate involvement by the State Department.
The original “Circular 175” was a 1955 Department Circular prescribing a process for prior coordination and approval of treaties and international agreements. This title has been retained; the applicable procedures are now referenced at 22 CFR 181.4 and in 11 FAM 720.
There are two kinds of Circular 175 requests. One calls for the approval of full powers to sign treaties that the President will send to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. Since under international law full powers may be issued only by heads of State and Foreign Ministers, approval of full powers is not a delegable function.
The more typical Circular 175 request is an action memorandum from a bureau or office in the State Department to a Department official at the Assistant Secretary level or above, seeking authority to negotiate, conclude, amend, extend, or terminate an international agreement. A “blanket” Circular 175 authorization may be appropriate where a series of agreements of the same general type are to be negotiated according to a more or less standard formula.
A Circular 175 memorandum will generally address, where applicable, the following issues:
The action memorandum should be accompanied by any texts to be negotiated or concluded. Other background information may be included as attachments.
Further, each Circular 175 memorandum is accompanied by a separate Memorandum of Law, prepared by the Office of the Legal Adviser. This legal memorandum generally will include -
As a general matter, the Circular 175 procedure has provided an efficient vehicle for achieving a coordinated and coherent
Also, the Circular 175 procedure assists the State Department in transmitting to the Congress pursuant to the Case-Zablocki Act (1 U.S.C. 112b) the text of any international agreement other than a treaty to which the United States is a party as soon as practicable after such agreement has entered into force with respect to the United States but in no event later than sixty days thereafter.
The Circular 175 procedure does not apply to documents that are not binding under international law. Thus, statements of intent or documents of a political nature not intended to be legally binding are not covered by the Circular 175 procedure. The determination whether a document is or is not an "international agreement" must be made by the Office of the Legal Adviser at the State Department.