The purpose of Stage 4 is for the parties to negotiate an Agreement in Principle. This is the agreement that will form the basis of the treaty. It should be the product of a thorough examination of the subjects set out in the Framework Agreement.

The Agreement in Principle should contain the essential points of agreement among the parties. The parties should confirm their processes for ratification of the final treaty and establish a mechanism to develop an implementation plan.

It is anticipated that substantial agreements on specified subject matters, or chapters, may be reached by a table over the course of the negotiations. When the table agrees on the Agreement in Principle as a complete document, the Chief Negotiators can recommend that the agreement be approved by their respective Principals. Their recommendation is normally indicated by the Chief Negotiators’ initialling the agreement. As with Framework Agreements, Agreements in Principle must be approved in accordance with the approval processes of the respective parties. The agreement is then signed. By the approval process, the parties should be able to provide their negotiators with a mandate to conclude a treaty.

The parties should notify the Commission when they plan to sign the Agreement in Principle and must provide the Commission with a copy of the signed agreement. Once the Agreement in Principle is approved and signed by each party, the Commission will acknowledge this by declaring that the table has moved into Stage 5 of the process.