Advisory Committee on International Postal and Delivery Services
October 18, 2010
13 October 2010 WG3 Proposal
PROPOSED STATEMENT OF POSITION OF THE UNITED STATES ON REFORM OF THE UNIVERSAL POSTAL UNION IN LIGHT OF CHANGING MARKET CONDITIONS
In the last two decades, fundamental changes have taken place, and are continuing to unfold, in international postal services and other international delivery services. These changes include the continuing liberalization of postal services, the increasing exposure of international postal services to competition, the new relationships emerging between public and private delivery operators, and the opening of domestic markets to foreign service suppliers.
In the view of the United States, there is a growing divergence between the scope of governmental measures appropriately adopted by the Universal Postal Union and the scope of operational activities appropriately supported by the work of the Union. Many public postal operators are responding to changing markets by diversifying into new commercial activities. The expanding operational role of the Union in providing operational assistance to public postal operators should not be confused with the more limited governmental role of the Union in establishing international regulations that are binding on member governments.
For one hundred and thirty-five years, the Universal Postal Union has played a vital role in the development of the cultural, social, and economic ties that bind together the peoples of the world through the international exchange of letters, documents, parcels, and postal payment services. The many contributions of the Union have been derived in large measure from a tradition of consensus among member countries based on their common dedication to this overriding purpose.
Fully cognizant of that great tradition, the United States believes that there is now an urgent need for members to take into account of the profound implications for the future of the Union of changing markets and new technologies and the trends in regulatory developments at national level. Fundamental revisions in the international legal framework for international postal services and other international delivery services are manifestly necessary. At the same time, however, reforms in the international legal framework should not introduce additional, unnecessary regulatory complexities that could thwart the historical mission of the Union.
Appropriate measures should be ready for adoption by member countries by the next general congress of the Universal Postal Union in 2012. Overall, in light of its national experience and legislation, it is the policy of the United States that new measures reforming and clarifying the governmental role of the Union should be fully consistent with the following basic principles and objectives:
1. The governmental mission of the Union and the goal of a single postal territory should be defined as the promotion and encouragement of the exchange of physical documents and parcels among peoples of the world for cultural, social, and economic purposes by means of the activities of all international postal services and other international delivery services. The Union should promote and encourage unrestricted and undistorted competition in the provision of such services, except where specifically reserved to a public postal operator by national law.
2. The governmental functions of the Union should not be enlisted to promote or regulate the activities of international postal services and other international delivery services which do not involve the exchange of physical documents and parcels. When providing services unrelated to the exchange of physical documents and parcels providers of international postal services and/or other international delivery services should abide by the same rules and regulations, and be subject to the same supervision and oversight, as other providers of such unrelated services.
3. The governmental and operational roles and responsibilities of the Union and its bodies — and the roles of the administrative support staff — should be clarified, distinguished, and reorganized in a manner that enforces a clear distinction between governmental functions, on the one hand, and operational activities, on the other hand. Approaches that should be seriously considered include models one and two of the 28 June 2000 discussion paper of the Subgroup 2 of the High Level Group on the Future Development of the UPU (CA HLG SG2 2000.3 - Doc3).
4. The system of financing Union activities should reflect the clear distinction between governmental and operational responsibilities set out above.
5. The Union should work with the World Customs Organization to develop, as soon as possible, customs procedures which are applicable in the same manner to similar shipments when conveyed by international postal services and other international delivery services, while maintaining, where appropriate, distinctions in the customs treatment of commercial and non-commercial shipments.
6. The Union should adopt no measures which create an undue or unreasonable preference in favor of any international postal service or other international delivery service with respect to any activities which may be lawfully provided by more than one service provider.
7. Financial services provided by public postal operators must comply with international standards relating to financial stability and anti-money laundering. Therefore, the Union should refrain from policies that may undermine the international financial services regulatory infrastructure (FSB, BIS, IOSCO, IAIS). On the other hand, reforms should not limit the ability of public postal operators to enter into agreements among themselves (and with other parties) so that they can continue to provide the traditional postal payment services which have historically acted as a useful and necessary supplement to private banking services.
8. The revisions and clarifications of the Acts of the Union called for above should in no respect prejudice the right of any nation (A) to define and ensure a universal postal service suited to the needs of its people and (B) to define and enforce a public monopoly over basic letter post services for the purpose of supporting such universal postal service.
The United States therefore calls upon all member countries to formulate proposals for the reform and reorganization of the Union based on the principles described above, so that they may be ready for submission to the 2012 Congress for approval.
The foregoing statement of position reflects the principles of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (in particular, section 407) adopted by the U.S. Congress in 2006. In addition, the statement draws inspiration from reform proposals introduced by the United States and other nations in the 1999 Beijing Congress and from the work of the UPU's High Level Group following the Beijing Congress.
Paragraph 1 recognizes that the fundamental reality of the changing global marketplace. Today, physical documents and parcels are being conveyed between nations by many types of providers of international postal services and other international delivery services and combinations of such operators. The international legal framework should facilitate the international exchange of physical documents and parcels without drawing distinctions based on the ownership, nationality, or legal status (e.g., governmental "designation") of such operators.
Paragraph 2 makes clear that the governmental functions of the Union should not promote or regulate activities outside the scope of what is required to facilitate the exchange of physical documents and parcels internationally.
Paragraph 3 emphasizes the need for a clear and complete separation of the governmental and operational roles and responsibilities of the bodies of the Union and its administrative staff. While the governmental mission of the Union should be limited as set out in paragraph 2, the operational and commercial work of the Union may continue — through institutions established either within the Union or outside the Union — to support other activities of international postal services and other international delivery services, provided that such support is consistent with the separation of governmental and operational roles and responsibilities and not contrary to national laws regulating commerce.
Paragraph 4 makes clear that the system of financing the Union should conform to the separation of governmental and operational functions.
Paragraph 5 emphasizes the need for providing the same customs treatment for similar items when conveyed by all international postal services and other international delivery services. Customs treatment should not vary with the ownership, nationality, or legal status (e.g., governmental "designation") of the operators. However, paragraph 5 recognizes that governments may consider it appropriate to provide simplified customs treatment for non-commercial items.
Paragraph 6 provides generally that the Union should not adopt any measure which could create an undue or unreasonable preference in favor of any international postal service or other international delivery service where there is the possibility of lawful competition.
Paragraph 7 emphasizes that the United States is very concerned that the Union should refrain from policies that may undermine the international financial services regulatory infrastructure. Indeed, where appropriate, the Union should encourage member governments to eliminate subsidies or other measures that may create undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages for financial services provided by government-owned postal operators.
Paragraph 8 makes clear that these principles are not intended to infringe on the sovereign right of a nation to ensure a universal postal service for its citizens or establish a postal monopoly covering basic letter post services for the purpose of supporting such universal postal service.
The United States believes these principles should be incorporated in the acts of the congress of the Union to be held in 2012. The final paragraph therefore calls upon all member countries to formulate specific proposals consistent with these principles.