GENEVA – The Universal Postal Union, one of the oldest international organizations, approved a tariff reform to adapt to electronic commerce that prevents one of its main members, the United States, from leaving the agency and causing a split in the global mail system.
The reform, approved unanimously after long negotiations that lasted until the early hours of Tuesday, drove away fears that the US would leave the organization with almost 145 years of history, something that Washington had promised to do in October if it kept the current rates.
Peter Navarro, director of American Commercial and Industrial Policy, said the proposal united all opinions and allowed the US to continue being a member of the UPU.
Navarro had warned the organization last year that his country would leave if the current low rates were maintained, which, according to Washington, were subsidizing packages arriving from countries like China because of the explosion of online shopping.
The threats by the US, which manages 40% of the world’s postal mail, led the Bern-based United Nations agency to convene this week in Geneva, the third congress of its history.
The rates that generated discord in the organization were the so-called “remuneration rates,” which mail-sending countries (and therefore those that charge customers for shipping) pay the recipients to compensate for the expenses that they have also had for delivering letters or packages.
Such tariffs have remained relatively low for decades despite the fact that costs have increased for postal services, due to the rise of internet shopping, gradually abandoned their role as carriers of letters to convert into parcel services.
This generated a conflict led by countries such as the US (although seconded by other net mail importers such as Canada and Brazil) that called for increased tariffs to exporting nations such as China.
The reform adopted on Wednesday will allow an increase in rates of between 13 and 17% between 2020 and 2025, although the US may apply the increases more quickly in exchange for a payment of $40 million in aid funds to the UPU.
These funds will be used to support postal security systems and pension plans for personnel in that sector worldwide.