Return to Sender? The U.S. Challenge to the Universal Postal Union’s Status Quo

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A few weeks ago, the Trump Administration initiated the process to withdraw from the 144 year old Universal Postal Union (UPU) because UPU agreements provide that the Postal Service must deliver inbound postal packages for rates that are substantially less than it charges domestic mailers for similar services. U.S. critics of the UPU rate scheme argue that it gives foreign online merchants an unfair advantage over U.S. merchants in the area of shipping costs. Today the biggest beneficiary is China, whose merchants are the biggest source of international e-commerce goods flowing into the U.S. Since the U.S. has never formally approved the current UPU Convention, the Trump Administration has decided to require the Postal Service introduce new rates for delivery of inbound packages as soon as practical, and no later than January 1, 2020, to eliminate this preference for foreign mailers. In addition, to fix this and other problems with the UPU permanently, the Trump Administration has decided to withdraw from the UPU unless satisfactory arrangements can be negotiated. However, if the U.S. withdraws from the UPU, the Postal Service may possibly lose access to UPU operational systems that facilitate international mail services and be forced to conclude new deals with foreign posts. Some critics contend that this is further evidence of the Trump Administration’s drift away from international law frameworks. Our experts will discuss the history of the UPU, the mechanics of withdrawal, and the policy issues related to staying or going.


James I. Campbell Jr., Lawyer and Consultant on Issues Relating to International Postal Policy

Patrick Hedren, Vice President for Labor, Legal and Regulatory Policy, National Association of Manufacturers

Moderator: Matthew R. A. Heiman, Senior Fellow and Associate Director, Global Security at the National Security Institute, George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School


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