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UPU US-Exit: US- Delegation deposited note of withdrawal Oct 17th, 2018


Guest contribution from: Walter Trezek

In the afternoon of Oct 17th, 2018, the head of the US- Delegation deposited the US diplomatic notice at the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union in Bern, Switzerland, stating that the USA will withdraw from the UPU effective Jan 1st, 2020, allowing the UPU and the USA some time to broker a new deal.

The decision followed decisions taken at the 2nd extraordinary UPU Congress at Addis Abeba in September 2018. The US Administration failed to negotiate satisfactory rates at the UPU Summit in Ethiopia. The step today by the USA is an action to ensure that rates for the delivery of inbound foreign small packets (up to 2 KG) satisfy criteria set by a Presidential Memorandum by US President Donald Trump, issued Aug 23rd, 2018[1]. President Trump called for modernizing the monetary reimbursement model for the delivery of goods through the international postal system ensuring “non-discriminatory rates for goods that promotes unrestricted and undistorted competition and consistent with applicable law”, following complaints from manufacturers and courier, express and parcel operators in competition to the United States Postal Service (USPS) about shipments mainly from China.

The US postal market is the largest single postal market worldwide. This strong action by the US Administration might allow 192 UPU member states to fix the flawed system in line with the new “integrated product plan (IPP)” and the related “integrated remuneration plan (IRP)” to negotiate widely accepted rates perceived fair by all stakeholders, including the economic operators.

The 144-year-old UPU sets fees that postal services charge to deliver documents (letters) and goods (parcels) from foreign postal administrations. For decades, developing nations have been allowed to pay lower rates than wealthier nations. China has fallen under the developing nation category, a designation the USA says it no longer deserves because of its booming economy.

One of the proposals is to move to a system of "self-declared rates" that would allow the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to set its own prices for shipping international goods and merchandise up to 31.5 KG. Currently, the Postal Service is only permitted to use self-declared rates on parcels more than 4.4 pounds.

The decision by the US Administration comes at a crucial moment of the global postal network. The change in the postal item mix, with globally declining letter post volumes (documents) and growing commercial items volumes, in the two-digit range, leads to the needs of new products and services.

Customer demand, driven by cross border Ecommerce, leads to electronic advanced data to be send prior to any physical shipping, fostering interoperability, increased security and compliance with customs and import regulations. The UPU is at the forefront of these developments. The US threat to leave, will further push already initiated developments. One year to broker a deal of such dimension might be not enough. The US Administration is well aware of it.


Statement of UPU Deputy Director General Pascal Clivaz on the decision by the Government of the United States of America to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union treaties during the plenary session of the UPU’s Postal Operations Council, 18 October 2018

“I wish to make some comments on the decision by the Government of the United States of America to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union treaties.

Yesterday afternoon, we received a letter from the United States of America Secretary of State, His Excellency Michael R. Pompeo, and here I can read out the substance of that letter to you: < This letter constitutes notification by the Government of the United States of America that it hereby denounces the UPU Constitution and, thereby, withdraws from the Universal Postal Union.> The letter goes on to say that the withdrawal, and I quote, < shall be effective one year after the day on which you receive this notice…>

The United States of America is among the founding members of the UPU and has over the years made a tremendous, positive contribution to the Union. It is, therefore, regrettable that the US has taken this step. We, however, respect the decision because we believe it was taken after careful consideration and reflection.

I wish to inform you that Director General Bishar A. Hussein will be seeking to meet with representatives of the Government of the United States of America to further discuss this matter.

I wish to assure everyone that the UPU remains committed to the noble aims of international collaboration. This means ensuring that, by working with all 192 member countries, the UPU treaties best serve everyone, including the United States of America.

I remain hopeful that, through discussion, through a constructive dialogue, we can help to resolve this issue to everyone’s satisfaction. The strength of this 144-year old organization is its ability to draw on the collective experience and efforts of its member countries to deliver a universal postal service to everyone on this planet. This has been the reason for our existence since 1874.  

The decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the UPU treaties is a serious one, but I believe, with the support of other members, we can resolve the matter amicably.

We will, therefore, continue to seek a constructive dialogue and to try to resolve this situation, while also upholding the UPU Constitution.


Video message: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kIQC2sQ77c

The Universal Postal Union is a UN specialized agency with its headquarters in the Swiss capital Berne. Established in 1874, it is one of the world’s oldest international organizations and is the primary forum for cooperation between postal sector players.”

[1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-memorandum-secretary-state-secretary-treasury-secretary-homeland-security-postmaster-general-chairman-postal-regulatory-commission/

Photo by Adam Birkett on Unsplash


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