The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) directed the US Postal Service to work on Terminal Dues and agreements with other countries, a hot-button issue for small online sellers in the US who are concerned they are paying more to send a package to US shoppers than it costs their Chinese counterparts. (We dug into the issue in this 2016 article if you want to learn more about Terminal Dues and ePackets and how they impact sellers.)
The directive came in the PRC’s Annual Compliance Determination, a mandated assessment of the US Postal Service’s compliance with pricing and service performance requirements for fiscal year 2017.
Among the directives included in the report, the PRC wrote:
“Regarding Inbound Letter Post, the Commission recommends that the Postal Service continue to pursue compensatory Universal Postal Union (UPU) terminal dues and pursue bilateral agreements with foreign postal operators that result in an improved financial position for the Postal Service.”
Chinese parcels volume increased from 1.2 billion in 2007 to 20.6 billion in 2015 and said China now sends more parcels than the United States, according to a report published by the Senate in January.
The issue of international mail came to the Senate’s attention after it was linked to the opioid crisis.
The January report is fascinating and describes how in 2017, a Senate subcommittee conducted a study and actually contacted online sellers it found through Google searches who openly advertised “dangerous and deadly synthetic opioids for purchase” and it “engaged in prolonged discussions with individuals associated with the above-listed websites,” though it did not agree to make any purchases. The report also said the subcommittee found that “It is likely that an active drug distributor in Pennsylvania is acting as a distributor for an internationally-based website that advertises synthetic opioids for sale on the open web.”
The report discusses AED – advanced electronic data – that the Postal Service receives from certain foreign postal operators. “AED is provided by the shipper at the time of package drop-off and includes data such as sender and recipient name and address, as well as a description of the package contents. Prior to the package entering the United States, the Postal Service forwards the AED to CBP. CBP analyzes the AED to identify suspicious packages.” (CBP is a reference to US Customs and Border Protection.)
Among the recommendations in the Senate report are the following:
(1) Require AED on All International Packages. The State Department and Postal Service should work together to take steps to prioritize the enactment and implementation of requirements that UPU member countries collect and exchange AED for all international packages. Congress should pass any legislation necessary to facilitate the agencies’ efforts.
(2) The Postal Service Should Include Provisions in All Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements to Collect and Exchange Additional and Better Quality AED. Any agreement between the Postal Service and one or more foreign posts for express package delivery should include provisions requiring the foreign posts to provide the Postal Service with quality AED for all packages.
The opioid crisis also brought the issue of international mail to the attention of the President. On March 19th, the White House issued a statement on “President Donald J. Trump’s Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand,” a three-pronged initiative that would “cut off the flow of illicit drugs across our borders and within communities” as one of the three strategies.
One of the directives relating to international mail: “Require advance electronic data for 90 percent of all international mail shipments (with goods) and consignment shipments within three years, in order for the Department of Homeland Security to flag high-risk shipments.”
You can find that report on the White House website.
Between the focus on international postage-rate equity and the opioid crisis, there’s pressure on the Postal Service to be more aggressive when it comes to working with foreign posts and the UPU, which could have a positive impact on US domestic sellers.