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The Universal Postal Union (UPU) Faces a Crisis

We have reported previously on the obscure but serious argument over “terminal dues”. These are the payments made by the national Post Office country of postage to the Postal Operator in the country where the postal item (a letter, package, parcel) is delivered. Years ago it was agreed that the Developed countries would “subsidize” the Developing countries by paying a larger percent of terminal dues when sending mail to developing countries, and receiving less when processing mail from a developing country (obviously a benefit to ecommerce fulfilment from African countries, for example, selling into the USA or Europe). The list of deserving countries has not been updated for decades. China (and a number of other rapidly industralising countries) are still considered to be developing countries. This means that China does not have to pay anything near the full terminal dues when it posts an ecommerce parcel to the developed world. President Trump noted this as an unfair trade practice and promised to stop it, but ran up against the Developing countries lobby at the UPU. A meeting is scheduled to take place in Bern (Switzerland) at the UPU’s HQ on Sept. 24-25. If the Trump Administration does not get what it wants at that summit, the United States is set to withdraw from the UPU—leaving commercial shippers and other mailers greatly concern about mailing into the USA. Courier companies, such as DHL, UPS, FedEx, etc, are not effected by this potential break down in the national postal operators’ terminal dues system, except where they feed into national mail streams, like the US Postal Service (USPS).

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