The United States is currently involved in the Universal Postal Union (UPU) 2021 congress meetings with other postal operators around the world discussing important matters that impact mail and packages.

The UPU, headquartered in Berne, Switzerland, was founded in 1874 and is the world’s second oldest international organization made up of four bodies (The Congress, The Council of Administration, The Postal Operations Council, and The International Bureau). The UPU is the major venue for collaboration amongst postal sector participants, with 192 member countries. It contributes to the creation of a genuinely global network of up-to-date products and services. As a result, the organization serves as an advisor, mediator, and liaison, as well when providing technical support as needed. It establishes regulations for international postal exchanges and gives recommendations to boost mail, parcel, and financial services volumes while also improving the customer service quality.

Stuart Smith, Chief of International Postal Affairs at State and the U.S. Department of State has begun its preparation for the Universal Postal Union’s 27th Congress. Congress is the supreme authority of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and meets every four years. The UPU’s member countries are expected to adopt the new World Postal Strategy – a plan for the new work cycle beginning in 2022 – at the 27th Universal Postal Congress in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in August 2021. Congress will also decide on new laws and norms governing international postal trade.

Smith provided an update to stakeholders on the important bills currently before Congress, including:

  • Integrated Product Plan (IPP): The UPU’s effort to modernize and streamline its product offering is considered as an opportunity to build on the 2019 Geneva Congress’s pay reforms and better position posts for the eCommerce market. One idea is to make tracking required on inbound letter posts by 2023, with debate over whether tracking will be limited to items or include both goods and documents.
  • Self-declaration for inward land rates: The United States proposed reforming parcel remuneration by moving away from internal land rates and toward self-declared parcel rates, similar to how packets are paid. However, the Council of Administration (CA) recommendation on this topic did not include the US suggestion, implying that the current capped inward land prices system in place since 2004 would be maintained. The Congress is expected to endorse the CA plan to keep the rate cap, the US will introduce the notion of eliminating it at the Abidjan Congress.
  • Consolidate the 2019 Geneva Congress decisions: The Geneva Congress carve-outs that set self-declared tariffs for E-format commodities is one aspect that needs to be worked out (packets). According to the United States’ understanding of the agreement, reciprocity is at its core, which means that low-flow countries who do not pay self-declared rates cannot levy self-declared rates reciprocally. The problem of reciprocity and the revenue-cap application is scheduled to be discussed.
  • Opening UPU to the wider postal sector: According to Smith, the task force report on this topic will serve as the foundation for suggestions, which will most likely be based on the three recommendations that the task force ultimately made in its report: reform of the Consultative Committee; opening UPU products and services to the private sector; and continuing to work on opening up by holding an Extraordinary Congress (EC) in 2023.
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