international conventions

International conventions are  treaties or agreements between countries. The term international convention is often used interchangeably with terms like "international treaty," "international agreement," "compact," or "contract between states." 

Conventions may be of a general or specific nature and between two or multiple states.  Conventions between two states are called bilateral treaties; conventions between a small number of states (but more than two) are called plurilateral treaties (such as the GPA); conventions between a large number of states are called multilateral treaties.

Bilateral Investment Treaties

bilateral investment treaty (BIT) is a common type of international convention. A BIT is an international agreement establishing the terms and conditions for private investment by nationals and companies of one state in another state.

Binding Nature

In Medellin v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491 (2008), the U.S. Supreme Court held that even if the United States signs and agrees to be bound by an international convention, the convention is not actually binding law unless it is self-executing, or unless Congress passes legislation making the convention binding.

For more on international conventions, see this Harvard Law Review article.

[Last updated in March of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team