Both bilateral clearing agreements and clearing member trade agreements can be called clearing trade agreements but the two are entirely different from one another. Clearing member trade agreements are common and well accepted, while bilateral clearing agreements are often referred to as political hot potatoes.

What Is a Reciprocal Trade Agreement?

A reciprocal trade agreement between two governments for a limited time and a specific amount is called a bilateral clearing agreement. The exporters in both countries are paid in their local currency, although the value in the agreement is usually expressed in a major currency, such as the U.S. dollar.

What Is Bartering?

In earlier times, bartering was very common and was often used when trading wheat for oil. Bartering usually takes place on a bilateral basis, but is sometimes seen involving multiple parties. While common and accepted at one time, it is now commonly said that bartering is inefficient. Due to the disruption of bilateral clearing agreements on the free market, the agreements are now condemned by the World Trade Organization (WTO), and have been scarcely used since the end of World War II.

What Is a Clearing Member Trade Agreement?

A clearing member trade agreement is a document that establishes a working relationship between an investor and a broker. Basically, the agreement allows the investor to explore investment options by taking advantage of the expertise of other brokers. It allows the investor to consolidate all trades through one broker at the end of a trading day, which provides a smooth and quick clearing process. The consolidation saves time while cutting costs on fees and commissions.

What Do Clearing Firms Do?

Due to the popularity and widespread practice of clearing agreements, a whole industry of clearing firms has been developed. The practice has particularly grown among investors who seek to diversify their portfolios.

Not only are clearing firms helpful in providing knowledge in a range of investment trades, such as bond derivatives, commodities, and futures contracts, they are able to provide banking expertise. They play a major part in worldwide trade and transfers that take place between banks, both on a domestic and international basis.

Clearing firms are often expected to carry out several tasks as set forth in the clearing agreement. These tasks may include any of the following:

  • Accounting responsibilities on behalf of the client
  • Settling trade debts
  • Overseeing scheduled withdrawals and payments to investment accounts

As the foundation for secure markets, The Options Clearing Corporation, also commonly referred to the OCC, monitors the clearing process under regulations established by the Securities and Exchange Commission and operates under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, also known as the SEC. Founded in 1973, OCC is the largest equity derivatives clearing organization in the world. The corporation acts as both the issuer and guarantor for option and futures contracts.

Regulators continue to create market rules that may or may not ultimately be consistent with market practices that have been used for 30 years. After the 2008 financial crisis, the OCC was called upon to adjust its operations to better address risks.

Central clearing has grown significantly and is without a doubt a shift in the right direction to reduce systemic risk resulting from bilateral trading. Central counterparties, CCPs, have indeed proved resistant, and the number of banks and other financial institutions that route their transactions through CCPs has broadened.

Central clearing primarily changes the linkages and exposures in the financial system. The links take different forms and generate several layers of interconnection. However, central clearing could give rise to other systemic risks. A focus on risk management of credit or on liquidity risk may affect market price in ways currently unidentified. The intricate linkages between banks and CCPs add to these difficulties. It is probable that CCPs can cushion the system against relatively small shocks, however, this is at the risk of potentially intensifying larger ones.

ISDA Master Agreement

Considerable focus has been on the ISDA Master Agreement in hopes of ensuring legal enforceability around the world with regard to bilateral trading. The ISDA Master Agreement was created in 1985 as a result of the tremendous growth of the foreign exchange and interest rate swap markets, which account for trillions of dollars in daily trade.

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