AskDefine | Define bilateral

Dictionary Definition

bilateral adj
1 having identical parts on each side of an axis [syn: isobilateral, bilaterally symmetrical, bilaterally symmetric]
2 having two sides or parts [syn: two-sided] [ant: unilateral, multilateral]
3 affecting or undertaken by two parties; "a bilateral agreement between the United States and Japan"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. having two sides
  2. involving both sides equally
  3. binding on both parties to an agreement
  4. having bilateral symmetry
  5. involving descent or ascent regardless of sex and side of the family


having two sides
involving both sides equally
binding on both parties to an agreement
involving descent or ascent regardless of sex and side of the family

Extensive Definition

This article is about the political term; for the term as used in biology, see symmetry (biology).
Bilateralism comprises the political and cultural relations between two states.
Most international diplomacy is done bilaterally. Examples of this include treaties between two countries, exchanges of ambassadors, and state visits. The alternatives to bilateral relations are multilateral relations, which involve many states, and unilateralism, when one state acts on its own.
There has long been a debate on the merits of bilateralism versus multilateralism. The first rejection of bilateralism came after the First World War when many politicians concluded that the complex pre-war system of bilateral treaties had made war inevitable. This led to the creation of the multilateral League of Nations.
A similar reaction against bilateral trade agreements occurred after the Great Depression, when it was argued that such agreements helped to produce a cycle of rising tariffs that deepened the economic downturn. Thus, after the Second World War, the West turned to multilateral agreements such as GATT.
Despite the high profile of modern multilateral systems such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, most diplomacy is still done at the bilateral level. Bilateralism has a flexibility and ease that is lacking in most compromise-dependent multilateral systems.


In medicine, the term "bilateral" indicates a condition or disease that affects both sides of the body (see also unilateral).

External links

  • - An open-publishing website initiated by organizations and activists to share information and action ideas about bilateral deal-making. The site focuses on several key issues, including agriculture and intellectual property.
bilateral in Czech: Bilaterální dohoda
bilateral in German: Bilateralität
bilateral in Indonesian: Hubungan bilateral
bilateral in Norwegian: Bilateral

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1