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The United States is to remain a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the global agency responsible for implementing international rules for mail delivery, after a compromise was reached over pricing structures.

After an emergency meeting on Wednesday, it was agreed that the US could start setting its own postal fees from July, while other countries receiving more than 75,000 metric tons of mail a year could start phasing in higher rates from January 2021.

It was also agreed that the US would pay $40 million to the UPU over five years, to help fund technological upgrades for security systems relating to the shipment of dangerous and prohibited goods, including the drug fentanyl.

Last year President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw the US from the UPU, of which it had been a member for over 145 years. Trump’s complaint related to terminal dues, the fees that countries charge each other for mail delivery, arguing that the existing pricing structure, with lower rates for developing countries, unfairly benefited China—and in particular Chinese exporters of counterfeit goods—with costs borne by the United States Postal Service.

US to remain in global postal union after reaching compromise
Credit: Alex Perz

Trump’s ultimatum was part of a broader war the US administration has waged against what it perceives as unfair trade practises at the country’s expense.

The US had set a deadline of October 17th for a rates increase, or else it would quit. UPU’s general secretary, Bishar Hussein, described such an eventuality as “a nightmare scenario”, as mail to the US would go undelivered and American stamps would no longer be valid abroad.

The US had entered negotiations wanting all countries to be allowed to decide their own fees, but this was voted down.

Hussein said that bargaining—which involved 34 countries including the US and China—had been difficult, but after the compromise was reached, he called it “the most remarkable day in the history of the union”.

Sources: The New York Times, The Guardian

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