The purpose of Stage 3 is for the parties to negotiate a Framework Agreement. A Framework Agreement is a negotiated agenda for Stage 4 Agreement in Principle negotiations. It should identify the subjects for and objectives of the negotiations, and establish a timetable and the procedural arrangements for the negotiations.
During Stage 3, it is expected that the parties will discuss all of the issues each identified in Stage 2. The Framework Agreement should identify what will be on the treaty negotiation table by setting out all of the subjects that the parties agree they will negotiate during Stage 4.
Examples of procedural arrangements which should be addressed in a Framework Agreement include:
- structure of tables, such as main table, side table, working group;
- frequency, location and notice of meetings;
- estimated time to complete Stage 4;
- who is responsible for agendas and record keeping;
- who is to chair the meetings;
- access to and confidentiality of records produced by the parties;
- who is entitled to attend meetings;
- coordination of communications and public information program;
- process for dispute resolution, particularly in the context of a party suspending negotiations.
Further, during framework negotiations, each party should describe to the others its proposed ratification procedure to conclude a final treaty. It is expected that ratification procedures will be a subject in the Framework Agreement for clarification or negotiation during Stage 4.
When the table agrees on the Framework Agreement, 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. Framework Agreements must be approved in accordance with the approval processes of the respective parties. The agreement is then signed.
The parties should notify the Commission when they plan to sign the Framework Agreement and must provide the Commission with a copy of the signed agreement. Once the Framework Agreement is approved and signed by each party, the Commission will acknowledge this by declaring that the table has moved into Stage 4 of the process.