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Historic agreement reached at the UPU to avoid US withdrawal

As the United States threatened to leave the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the 192 member countries of this United Nations agency, meeting in an extraordinary congress in Geneva from 24 to 26 September, have found an acceptable compromise to reform its rules. In a context of trade tensions with China, the United States had announced in October 2018 its desire to withdraw from the institution and to apply its own tariffs on small parcels arriving at US borders by 1 January 2020 at the latest. Their concerns, shared by other countries - Canada, Norway, South Africa... - were about the system of remuneration for mailing bulky letters and small packages. The UPU provides for the country of destination to be compensated by the country of dispatch for the costs of delivering the item. It therefore sets rates (called terminal dues) that Posts in each country pass on for the delivery of mail and small packets around the world. As it classifies countries into four economic and postal development groups, developing countries, including China (which is in the third group), benefit from lower rates than rich countries in Europe and North America, which enables it to offer attractive prices for e-commerce shipments.


Peter Navarro ( opposite), Donald Trump's economic adviser, saw in this withdrawal "a way to thwart China and its unfair practices, as well as an opportunity to defy the authorities of international organizations."

Eager to reach an agreement, the member countries agreed a few months ago to hold this extraordinary congress, only the third since the organization was founded in 1874. The compromise reached in Geneva ( Option V for victory) allows members to determine their own rates gradually from 2020 and until 2025.

"It is a great relief to have been able to save postal multilateralism," says Jean-Paul Forceville, director of European and international relations at Groupe La Poste. The departure of the United States would have been a serious blow to the UPU. The French delegation has played a key role in recent months in achieving this result. It is now a question of remaining attentive to the effect on volumes of the small packets that increases in postal remuneration will have. Better cost coverage is assured but there is a fear that some of the volumes will evaporate."


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