Treaty Research - General
There are two kinds of treaties, bilateral and multilateral. A bilateral treaty is an agreement between two individual countries, while a multilateral treaty is an agreement between multiple countries. Bilateral treaties are also referred to as conventions.
The Constitution gives the President the power to conclude treaties with foreign governments subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. Once the Senate ratifies a treaty and the President proclaims it, the treaty becomes part of U.S. domestic law.
There is also a second type of agreement called an Executive Agreement. This is an agreement that the President or a member of the Executive Branch may conclude with a foreign government that does not require Senate approval. Typically, an agreement of this type may be the implementation details of an already approved treaty, or an agreement between the governments to act in a particular way towards each other.
Treaties - Consideration by the Senate
The process for ratification is relatively straightforward. The President transmits a treaty to the Senate, and Senate publishes the text along with the Presidential message of transmittal as a Treaty Document. They are numbered according to the congress and number in which they were received. Unlike bills or resolutions, treaties do not die at the end of a congressional session. They may be considered by subsequent congresses. The treaty is assigned to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (http://www.foreign.senate.gov/), which examines the treaty as it would legislation. The Committee may hold hearings, or not, and ultimately sends its recommendation to the full Senate in a document known as an Executive Report. These contain the committee’s recommendation for passage of the treaty along with any qualifications the Committee may place on the text or interpretation of the treaty. These are contained in the text of the Resolution of Adoptment, which is included in the Executive Report. Executive Reports are numbered according to congress and its numerical issue. These, as well as treaty documents, are available on GPO/FdSys Access (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/) from the 104th Congress to the present. There is no correspondence between the numbering of Treaty Documents and Executive Reports.
Tax Treaties - General
Tax treaties are agreements between the United States and other countries as to tax treatment of revenue. Treaties are usually bilateral as each country has its own interest in handling its tax policy. Treaties tend to cover issues involving double taxation of business and individuals, and methods for handling criminal tax evasion.
There are various commercial and free sources for treaty information. Commerce Clearinghouse publishes a seven volume loose-leaf set called Tax Treaties which covers every agreement which the United States has entered. Many academic libraries carry this title. Treaty content also appears in the CCH IntelliConnect Research Network.
The State Department offers a yearly index compilation of treaties currently in force, called Treaties In Force. It’s a standard reference work at law libraries, and PDF copies are available for free download from the State Department’s web site. The current compilation is at http://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/tif/index.htm. The volume is organized by country and then by topic, and in the case of multilateral treaties, by topic. A treaty is cited to text appearing in United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST), Treaties and Other International Act Series (TIAS), and the United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS). All of these sets are standard titles in academic law libraries. As a note, TIAS text is published as individual pamphlets, acting as advance sheets for the UST volumes. A library may have 20 or more years of TIAS pamphlets as the permanent UTS bound volumes are slow to publication. Lexis and Westlaw carry complete treaty text as part of their database offerings.
Treaties are available from GPO Access, the Government Printing Office web site, at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/. Text appears in the form of Treaty Documents, which are treaties as submitted to the Senate by the Executive branch. Those can be searched or browsed at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=CDOC from the 104th Congress (1995-1996) to the present. Congressional recommendations on ratification via the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appear in the form of Executive Reports. These can be searched or browsed at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/serialset/creports/index.html.