The UPU Council of Administration (CA) and the Postal Operations Council (POC) have been meeting in Bern, Switzerland. As expected, action was taken on proposals to reform remuneration between countries for the delivery of each other’s international mail.
According to the UPU press release (link below), three proposals on compensation between countries for delivery of their mail by other countries will be put forward for a vote by the UPU member countries. The three proposals are mutually exclusive; the method proposed in each is substantially different than in the others. At this point, only one proposal meets the requirements set in the U.S. Presidential Memorandum of August 23, 2018. That three proposals will go to a vote lessens the chances that the one proposal acceptable to the U.S. will pass.
The newest proposal, submitted to the UPU by France and Japan, is seen by many countries as an attempt to find a compromise solution between the proposal submitted by Canada and backed by the U.S. to allow self-declared rates and the third proposal which accelerates the reforms to the current system passed at the 2016 UPU Congress in Istanbul. The proposal from France and Japan is being referred to a “convergence option”. There is wide agreement that reform of the remuneration system is needed, but how to do so is not agreed.
Whether the vote by UPU member countries will be by a postal ballot or an extraordinary congress has not yet been decided. A balloting of member countries will decide which option is used. The countries will have 30 days to respond and two-thirds (2/3) will need to vote for an extraordinary congress for that to occur. Otherwise, a postal balloting will be used to decide on the proposals. A country may vote to approve no proposal, a single proposal, or multiple proposals. If multiple proposals pass, the one that is furthest from the current system will become the UPU policy.
If it is by postal ballot, the process begins with the countries receiving official copies of all proposals and a 45-day comment period during which countries send their official comments to the UPU staff. These comments are then made available to all member countries. A 45-day voting period follows the comment period. At the UPU, each of the 192 member countries has one vote. Some countries, those in arrears on their payment obligations, can’t vote. There are about 20 countries in arrears right now. About 170 countries can vote. Two-thirds (2/3) of the voting countries would need to approve a proposal for it to pass.
If an extraordinary congress is called, it would take place September 24 and 25, most likely in Geneva, Switzerland. A UPU extraordinary congress is unusual; there have been two in the 145-year history of the UPU. The second was in August, 2018. The vote threshold for passage of a proposal at a congress is a majority of those voting but a quorum of countries eligible to vote would need to participate in the congress.
The deadline for withdrawal set by the U.S. is October 18, 2019. Either UPU voting option will come down to the wire. Many following these developments, including me, think it is likely the U.S. will withdraw. If the U.S. does withdraw from the UPU, it will affect both incoming and outgoing international mail because the U.S. will no longer be a party to the agreements on the exchange of postal items. This includes the labels and forms used on all international mail. Internally, USPS is looking at options, but they are not being made available outside the USPS. (All U.S. government resources are being concentrated on attaining passage of the proposal for self-declared rates.) Whether these options can be put in place between when we know the results of the UPU vote and the U.S. withdrawal deadline is unclear—and seems unlikely without some disruptions for mailers.
Some observers have commented that the U.S. rejoining the UPU would be a simple matter if the organization’s remuneration method changes in the future. This may be complicated if Palestine joins the UPU, and it has applied to do so. U.S. law requires the U.S. to cut off funds to any U.N. organization that grants Palestine full membership. To rejoin, the U.S. would be required to agree to pay dues to the UPU. If Palestine is a UPU member, U.S. payment of dues to the UPU would not be possible. The U.S. cannot enter an agreement when it is unable to follow the terms of the agreement, making it impossible for the U.S. to rejoin the UPU.
The meetings at the UPU and discussions among the member countries continue. Stay tuned!
Presidential Memorandum: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-memorandum-secretary-state-secretary-treasury-secretary-homeland-security-postmaster-general-chairman-postal-regulatory-commission/
About the author: Merry Law, President of WorldVu LLC, is editor of the authoritative Guide to Worldwide Postal-Code and Address Formats and author of Best Practices for International Mailings. She is a member of the Universal Postal Union’s addressing work group and of the U.S. International Postal and Delivery Services Federal Advisory Committee. Merry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.