Accessibility links

Breaking News

Compromise Keeps US in Universal Postal Union

The Universal Postal Union logo.

After two days of intense negotiations, the Universal Postal Union has reached a compromise agreement on mailing rates that has averted a threatened walkout by the United States, which could have caused a major disruption to the global postal system.

The United States declared victory in the UPU’s “Extraordinary Congress,” saying it got what it wanted. The head of the U.S. delegation, Peter Navarro, said member countries unanimously approved the adoption of a comprehensive set of reforms based on the U.S. proposal.

Navarro, who is the director of trade and manufacturing policy at the White House, said the measure lets the United States immediately self-declare its postal rates, thereby covering the costs of bulky letters and small parcels sent from abroad.

FILE - U.S. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro speaks during an interview at the White House in Washington, Sept. 11, 2019.
FILE - U.S. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro speaks during an interview at the White House in Washington, Sept. 11, 2019.

Major savings seen

Navarro called this a big deal.

"The U.S. got immediate self-declared rates that saves us a half a billion dollars,” he said. “It eliminates market distortions. It creates tens of thousands of jobs for America. It also helps our friends and allies, and other nations — Norway, Finland, Brazil — who are getting hammered by this situation. It allows them in a multispeed option to get to that path."

UPU Secretary-General Bishar Hussein said the deal would not kick in until July 1, 2020, for the U.S., when the American self-declared rates will go into effect. For other member states, he said, the new postal rate system will begin in January 2021.

Once a country declares its rates, he said, the exporting country will have to factor in that cost. This, he said, means that cost will be transferred to the person who is mailing that item.

Global impact

"When you are in a country and you buy items overseas, the end customer will definitely have to get a higher price, because it is not the old price which is in force now,” Hussein said. “So, I have no doubt in my mind that it will have a financial impact, or rather an impact, on the customers globally."

Hussein said the negotiations were intense, tough and at times worrisome. But in the end, he said, countries agreed on a compromise that maintains the UPU as a strong, well-functioning organization. He said no country got everything it wanted. But he noted that no country walked out.