24th UPU Congress – Geneva 2008
U.S. positions on major issues
1. Opposition to expansion of the UPU mission
At the February 2008 session of the CA, the UPU secretariat put forward a proposal, sponsored by Russia, to revise the organization’s mission statement in the Preamble of the UPU Constitution to include the phrase “to contribute to fostering trade and promoting economic and social development worldwide”. The CA adopted this language after a brief discussion, and sent the text in a formal proposal for consideration by the 24th UPU Congress, despite strong opposition by several countries including the U.S. Changes to the UPU Constitution can be made only by the Congress, and proposals to amend the Constitution must gain the positive votes of two-thirds of member countries.
The U.S. strongly objects to this proposed change to the UPU mission statement for several reasons. First, this proposal appeared in February 2008 without any proper consultation of member countries. The last change to the mission statement, which was made by the 2004 Bucharest UPU Congress, was the culmination of years of work by a “High Level Group” which consulted extensively with member countries. Second, the inclusion of trade in the mission statement would encroach upon the responsibilities of the WTO and cause serious difficulties for USG bilateral and multilateral trade negotiators. Third, the inclusion of trade and economic development in the UPU mission statement would impinge upon work done by UNCTAD. Fourth, replies to a 2005 CA survey showed that a clear majority of UPU members were satisfied with the mission statement adopted in 2004 and saw no need for change. Fifth, this proposal is emblematic of the efforts of the UPU secretariat to exceed its authority by attempting to force decisions which are solely the responsibility of member countries. This proposal reflects broader UPU efforts to expand its core mission of providing a universal postal service at affordable prices into such areas as new financial services, which the U.S. also opposes.
2. Support for Zero Nominal Growth and UPU cooperatives
Since 1996, the UPU has managed to maintain zero nominal growth for its budget, the annual ceiling for which is 37 million Swiss Francs (roughly the equivalent amount in dollars at current exchange rates). Fixing the ceiling for the UPU ordinary budget for the 2009-2012 period will be one of the most important Congress decisions. The U.S. strongly supports maintenance of zero nominal growth in the ordinary UPU budget and urges all other UPU member countries to support this position. From discussions with delegates at recent UPU and regional meetings, we sense little support among most of the UPU membership for a departure from zero nominal growth discipline.
Concurrently, the U.S. wishes to nurture the extrabudgetary groups that the UPU has created since 1996, particularly the Telematics Cooperative, the EMS (Express Mail Service) Cooperative and UPU*Clearing (a clearinghouse for the settlement of accounts for international mail exchanges). These extrabudgetary cooperatives, which have proven their value in respective fields, feature voluntary membership, corporate-like structures, weighted voting principles (which exist nowhere else in the UN specialized agencies other than in the World Bank and IMF), and management boards whose members are elected on an ad personam basis. The U.S. has put forward a set of proposals which would confirm the status of cooperatives or “user groups” that already exist within the UPU and provide a sound basis for the creation of future user groups. We seek the support of the extrabudgetary, voluntary cooperatives and user groups as a reasonable approach for funding optional UPU activities.
The UPU Congress should adopt measurement of a postal administration’s performance in delivering international mail as the highest UPU priority and approve comprehensive action plans to achieve this purpose.
Last year, an overwhelming majority of UPU members said that improving quality of service should be the highest priority of the UPU. The number one priority of the Nairobi Postal Strategy is therefore quality of service. We can only improve what we can measure. Therefore, quality of service measurements should also be a top priority. These measurements are already critical for purposes of terminal dues, and will become increasingly so as more countries move into the target system.
Starting in 2006, the UPU Strategic Planning Group and IB began to produce annual “Report Cards” that showed how well individual countries and administrations achieved the goals of the Bucharest World Postal Strategy. The most important indicator in these Report Cards is the performance for delivering inbound international letter post items. However, this information is currently not published. We cannot make improvements if we do now know the performance.
UPU and its members spend considerable resources on performance measurement. It is important that performance be transparent. The U.S. has put forward a proposal for the POC and CA to decide how best to publish these measurements.
4. Terminal dues
The UPU should continue efforts to improve the current system of terminal dues to allow for better cost recovery and establish solid principles for classification of UPU member countries on the basis of postal development indicators. The current terminal dues proposal represents a compromise among UPU members. In the coming Congress cycle, the U.S. will place great importance on developing a more cost-based terminal dues system that is more closely aligned to domestic tariffs. We also recognize the need to take into consideration the situation of developing countries whose tariffs do not cover costs for social reasons.
The classification of countries for the purpose of terminal dues and the Quality of Service Fund is one of the most important proposals that Congress will consider. We now have a sound basis for ensuring a gradual transition to our goal of a cost-based, country-specific terminal dues system for all UPU members and fully support the classification proposal and methodology.
The classification of countries and territories is a serious matter that should only be decided by Congress. By classifying UPU members for a four-year period, we ensure stability and adequate planning for countries and territories as they move into the terminal dues target system.
5. Electronic transmission of data (EDI) between postal and customs administrations
The UPU Congress should adopt proposal 61 submitted by the U.S. and supported by several Caribbean countries to expand and accelerate the transmission of data regarding individual postal items for customs purposes.
Thespeedy and efficient clearance through customs is essential to the overall quality of international mail. Many posts and regions are working to find solutions to meet customers’ needs and to speed up the processing of their items. Given today’s environment of heightened security and competition for mail services, we believe that it is critical for postal administrations to have the ability to provide Customs with advance electronic information on individual postal items.
The U.S. proposes that the UPU work with the World Customs Organization to develop standards for electronic messaging between postal and customs administrations and promote the advance transmission of this data in order to improve the overall quality of mail services.
The U.S. recognizes that not all administrations will be able to provide the same levels of information so the Postal Operations Council must bear this in mind as it looks at setting standard customs information requirements. Administrations will have to absorb costs to provide this information to Customs, but the benefit should be weighed against the costs.
Note: Information about further U.S. positions on major issues to be considered by the 24th UPU Congress and U.S. priorities for the UPU for the 2009-2012 Congress period can be found in the U.S. Strategic Plan for the UPU 2009-2012 (see document 2e).