49 United States Code 44704 requires the FAA to make certain "findings" or determinations of compliance to U.S. airworthiness standards before issuing any approvals or certifications.
For type design approvals (type certificates), the FAA is required to find that the design of an aeronautical product meets U.S. airworthiness standards applicable to the product. The FAA is required to determine that a specific product conforms to a design previously approved by the FAA Administrator and is in a condition for safe operation before issuing a U.S. airworthiness certificate.
Bilateral agreements provide an alternative means for the FAA to make its "findings" by making maximum practicable use of the certification system of another aviation authority. Through bilateral agreements, the FAA recognizes the competency of the exporting authority to conduct airworthiness certification functions in a manner comparable to the FAA.
Bilateral agreements do not relieve the FAA of its statutory responsibilities for making findings of compliance. They do provide the terms of reference for the FAA's cooperation with its foreign counterparts and enable the agency to make its findings giving maximum practical credit to other country's domestic certification systems. Bilateral agreements also commit these authorities to fully cooperate with and assist the FAA in the timely resolution of safety issues that may arise once aircraft exported under the bilateral agreements enter into service on the U.S. registry.