Universal Postal Union (UPU) Considers “Opening” and Other Postal Concerns

This article was produced by Merry Law, Mailers Hub’s expert consultant on international mail. Merry may be reached at [email protected].

The Universal Postal Union’s administrative bodies, the Council of Administration (CA) and the Postal Operations Council (POC), met in their regularly scheduled quarterly meeting in late October.  In addition to the usual meetings, a one-day conference on opening further to the wider postal sector players (WPSPs) was held on October 27.  Topics of discussion at the meetings and the conference affect US international mail and mailers.

Conference on Postal Regulation

A UPU special task force on administrative reform and opening to the WPSPs, co-chaired by the US and Algeria, was created by the UPU Congress in 2021.  Its brief is to assess the opinions of the 192 member countries and their designated postal operators and develop proposals on reform and opening for an Extraordinary Congress to be held in October 2023.   The one-day conference was part of this effort.

Many of the postal operators are, at best, skeptical about allowing private-sector companies to have a voice at the UPU, although governments and postal regulators are more open to the idea.  The conference allowed for an exchange of ideas between government and postal officials and representatives of the WPSPs.  Kate Muth, executive director of the International Mailers Advisory Group, representing the association’s members, and Keith Kellison of United Parcel Service provided their perspectives on behalf of the private sector.

The Consultative Committee (CC), currently overseen by the CA, was expanded to allow membership from private companies.  There seems to be a consensus developing that any further opening to WPSPs will involve a broader role for the CC.  It is unclear what the continuing reporting relationships will be. After more than two decades of attempts at reform, it appears that no overall administrative reforms will occur.  Historically and currently, the UPU has not fully separated governmental and oversight functions.  Some further changes to the CC and access to some UPU products by the private sector may occur.

Extra-Territorial Offices of Exchange (ETOEs)

ETOEs are offices of foreign postal operators in another country, for example, a company owned by Royal Mail or La Poste in the US.  These offices process accepted mail, transport it to another country (usually the country of their parent post), and mail it there for delivery in that country, region, or worldwide.

ETOEs have been controversial at the UPU since some postal operators lose revenue to them.  Each country sets its own policies and regulations regarding ETOEs.  In a survey conducted by the UPU, most of the countries responding (less than 30% of the UPU members) indicated each country should decide for itself how to regulate ETOEs in its territory.  Further study and discussion are planned to develop proposals for consideration at the regular quadrennial Congress.

Advance Electronic Data (AED) concerns

With the concerns of the developed countries, including the US, around terrorism, fraudulent goods, illicit drugs, and other illegal goods transported through the postal network, AED has become a requirement for postal operators.  There are, however, major concerns about the ability of countries to meet the requirements.  In general, the postal operators seem to be making steady progress toward meeting the current requirements according to a UPU survey of member countries.  This survey had 156 responses, about 81% of the membership.  (AED, the US abbreviation, is known as EAD in most other countries.)

With more than 60% (120) of the members indicating they provide basic AED on all outbound goods, the number decreases to less than 40% who say they send data to customs authorities in the destination country.  The number declines further as to item-level data, with questions remaining about the quality of the data provided. AED requirements will increase substantially when the EU’s ICS2 phase 2 comes into effect on March 1, 2023.  The US STOP Act also requires more detailed information, with members of Congress recently expressing their dissatisfaction with both Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the USPS on enforcement.  Some of the more technologically-sophisticated postal operators have expressed concerns about meeting the new requirements and legal concerns, from privacy to treaty obligations, have been mentioned.

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