From glacial pace to lightening speed, things are suddenly moving rapidly when it comes to changing how the US charges for delivery of packages from overseas shippers. The State Department is holding a meeting in Washington DC on Thursday, March 14, 2019 to discuss the US withdrawal from the Universal Postal Union (UPU), and any member of the public can provide input.
The current administration is taking a great interest in the issue of what many see as "unfair" postal rates in which sellers from some international countries can pay less postage to get packages delivered to US shoppers than domestic US shippers, thanks to Terminal Dues set by UPU members.
An August 23, 2018 Presidential Memorandum set the tone when President Trump wrote, "Some current international postal practices in the UPU do not align with United States economic and national security interests," and noted, "UPU terminal dues, in many cases, are less than comparable domestic postage rates."
That was followed with the White House statement of October 17, 2018 announcing the US withdrawal from the UPU, a radical step that has set things moving before the October 17, 2019 deadline.
On Thursday, the Department of State Advisory Committee on International Postal and Delivery Services is holding a meeting: "The agenda of the meeting will include discussion of the announced U.S. withdrawal from the Universal Postal Union, and efforts underway that might allow the United States to meet the goals articulated in the October 17, 2018 White House announcement while remaining in the Organization."
Any member of the public can provide input, and though the deadline was March 7th, you can still request input into the meeting.
Contact Ms. Shereece Robinson via email at RobinsonSA2@state.gov, or by mail at IO/STA, Suite L– 409 SA–1; U.S. Department of State; Washington, DC 20522.
(Also let her know if you'd like the State Department to webcast Thursday's meeting or at minimum have the transcript published online after the event.)
The US is not the only country concerned about Terminal Dues, and Canada Post is leading a wave to force change at the UPU and work to find a solution that will keep the US and others in the UPU while stopping "cost coverage inadequacies."
Ian Kerr, founder and host of the Postal Hub Podcast
, interviewed Pierre Morin, International Relations at Canada Post, who provided some information about behind-the-scene developments.
It appears the US administration will only be satisfied with self-declared rates that cover the costs of delivering overseas parcels, possibly with some exceptions for the least economically developed nations. The questions are whether the State Department is open to remaining in the UPU and whether UPU countries will agree to participants setting self-declared rates.
That's a vast oversimplification of the issues involved, and much remains unknown to the public about the process and what lies ahead, including what rates foreign countries will charge US exporters and what stance the Postal Regulatory Commission will take when approving rates proposed by the US Postal Service.
Should the US move to self-declared rates? If it does, should the State Department nevertheless work hard to remain in the UPU if the countries can come to an agreement? Don't just answer here - write to the State Department and let them know. And if you can make it to Thursday's meeting in DC, consider requesting an opportunity to speak before the committee.
With the October deadline for UPU withdrawal nearing, things are rapidly coming to a head.
Update: Immediately after posting we received a very timely response from Ms. Robinson about our request that the meeting be webcast: "This meeting will not be available via webcast as we do not have the capabilities to do so. This meeting will be open to the public, therefore your readers are welcome to attend. There will be an opportunity for questions and comments." I'll be following up with a request that a transcript be made available, feel free to do so as well.