eBay, which relies heavily on cross-border trade, warned sellers of a possible disruption to international mail delivery if the United States pulls out of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) next month. The UPU consists of members from 192 countries, including the US.
At the heart of the issue is UPU Terminal Dues, which influences how much a shipper on one country will pay to have a small package delivered to a recipient in another country. Since it's not efficient for each country to negotiate with every other country the rates at which they will deliver mail from their citizens, the UPU sets terminal dues for cross-border deliveries among its member countries.
Last year, President Trump issued an ultimatum for the UPU to change the system, a move that was viewed positively by many small online sellers in the US who had become angry that it was sometimes cheaper for foreign shippers (particularly China-based sellers) to mail small items to US buyers than it cost them.
As the USPS stated in June, "The UPU rate system for small packets creates economic distortions which allow foreign producers to ship goods to US consumers at a lower price than US postage rates."
The USPS also said in June it would remain in the international mailing business whether or not the US remained a member of the UPU. It also noted that one UPU proposal would allow for the US to remain in the UPU, with self-declared rates for small packets, to be implemented in 2020.
In the meantime, eBay appears to be looking to Congress for help, emailing members of its eBay Main Street program with the subject line, "Help Protect American Small Businesses."
The email advised recipients, "Tell Congress: Don't Withdraw from the Universal Postal Union," and stated the following:
"Right now, Washington is on a collision course that could seriously disrupt international sales for American small businesses, just before the holiday season. This October, the US government is threatening to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which does everything from setting rates for international mail delivery to standardizing customs forms. If the US moves forward with withdrawal from the UPU, small business sellers on eBay who use the US Postal Service to send items overseas could be faced with increased costs and service disruptions, and global mail delivery could even come to a halt.
"Tell Congress to REJECT US withdrawal from the UPU and protect small businesses and consumers! Write Your Members of Congress."
The issue is coming down to the wire: the Trump administration set in motion a plan to withdraw from the UPU on October 17, 2019 if a satisfactory resolution was not adopted by the UPU, which is holding a Congress on remuneration rates in Geneva, Switzerland this month (September 24-26).
Regardless of whether the US stays in the UPU, the cost of sending and receiving international small parcels in the mail is likely to rise. That's especially true for items from China, as an article in AndroidPolice.com
pointed out on Saturday:
"Regardless of if the U.S. remains in the UPU, the postal service will be expected to hike rates for small packets come next year. That means you should expect to pay more for a whole bunch of things in 2020 - whether you buy them on AliExpress or Amazon, where importers might pass along the pain."