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The Universal Postal Union (UPU, french: Union postale universelle), established by the Treaty of Bern of 1874, is a
specialized agency United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United Nations and each other through the co-ordinating machinery of the United Nations Economic and Social Council at the intergovernmental level, and through t ...
of the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization aiming to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for harm ...

United Nations
(UN) that coordinates postal policies among member nations, in addition to the worldwide
postal system The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick paper or thin Card stock, cardboard, typically rectangular, intended for writing and mailing without an envelope. Non-rectangular s ...

postal system
. The UPU contains four bodies consisting of the Congress, the Council of Administration (CA), the Postal Operations Council (POC) and the International Bureau (IB). It also oversees the Telematics and Express Mail Service (EMS) cooperatives. Each member agrees to the same terms for conducting international postal duties. The UPU's
headquarters Headquarters (commonly referred to as HQ) denotes the location where most, if not all, of the important functions of an organization are coordinated. In the United States, the corporate headquarters represents the entity at the center or the top ...

headquarters
are located in
Bern ,german: Berner(in),french: Bernois(e), it, Bernese , neighboring_municipalities = Bremgarten bei Bern Bremgarten bei Bern is a municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division having Municipal corporation, corpor ...

Bern
,
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under an assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_title1 = Fe ...

Switzerland
.


History


Bilateral treaties

Before the establishment of the UPU, every pair of countries that exchanged mail had to negotiate a postal treaty with each other. In the absence of a treaty providing for direct delivery of letters, mail had to be forwarded through an intermediate country. Postal arrangements were complex and overlapping. In 1853, the United States had a postal treaty with
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...
, but some states in southern Germany were sending their US-bound mail through France instead. Since there was no postal treaty between the United States and France, the mail had to travel on a British or a Belgian ship. US Postmaster-General James Campbell doubted "whether ... the arrangement can be safely continued," but he saw hope in a postal treaty with
Bremen Bremen (, also ; Low German : : : : : , minority = (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by t ...
that also covered the Austro-German Postal Union. Negotiations for postal treaties could drag on for years. The United States drafted a postal treaty with France in 1852, but the two countries disagreed on how to divide the inland postage, and a treaty was not signed until 1857. However, the treaty was allowed to expire. Elihu Washburne, the new US Minister to France, arrived in Paris in 1869 to find "the singular spectacle ... of no postal arrangements between two countries connected by so many business and social relations." The United States and France finally exchanged ratifications of a postal treaty in July 1874, just three months before the Universal Postal Union made the treaty unnecessary. An exasperated Washburne complained, "There is no nation in the world more difficult to make treaties with than France."


General Postal Union

Faced with such difficulties in exchanging mail with Europe, the United States had already taken the lead in calling for improvements to international mail arrangements.
United States Postmaster General The United States postmaster general (PMG) is the chief executive officer A chief executive officer (CEO), chief administrator officer, or just chief executive (CE), is one of a number of corporate executives A corporation is an organiz ...
Montgomery Blair Montgomery Blair (May 10, 1813 – July 27, 1883) was an American politician and lawyer from Maryland. He served in the Lincoln administration United States Cabinet, cabinet as United States Postmaster General, Postmaster-General from 1861 to 1864 ...
called for an International Postal Congress in 1863. Meeting in Paris, the delegates laid down some general principles for postal cooperation but failed to come to an agreement. The German victory in the Franco-Prussian War cleared away the obstacles to a postal union. After defeating Napoleon III in 1870, the
North German Confederation The North German Confederation (german: Norddeutscher Bund) was the German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of ...
and the South German states united to form the
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
. The German
Reichspost ''Reichspost'' (, ''Imperial Mail'') was the name of the Mail, postal service of Germany from 1866 to 1945. Deutsche Reichspost Upon the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the break-up of the German Confederation in the Peace of Prague (1866), P ...
established a uniform set of postage rates and regulations for the new country, but the uniformity ended at the German border. Different amounts of postage were required to mail a letter from Berlin to New York, depending on which ship carried the letter across the Atlantic Ocean. To bring order to the system of international mail, German Postmaster-General
Heinrich von Stephan Heinrich may refer to: People * Heinrich (given name) Heinrich is a German name, German given name of ancient Germanic origin and cognate of ''Henry (given name), Henry''. Female forms are ''Henrike'' and ''Henriette''. The most famous patron ...

Heinrich von Stephan
called for another International Postal Congress in 1874. Meeting in
Bern ,german: Berner(in),french: Bernois(e), it, Bernese , neighboring_municipalities = Bremgarten bei Bern Bremgarten bei Bern is a municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division having Municipal corporation, corpor ...

Bern
, Switzerland, the delegates agreed to all of von Stephan's proposals. The Treaty of Bern was signed on October 9, 1874, establishing what was then known as the General Postal Union. The treaty provided that: # There should be a uniform flat rate to mail a letter anywhere in the world # Postal authorities should give equal treatment to foreign and domestic mail # Each country should retain all money it has collected for international postage. One important result of the Treaty was that it was no longer necessary to affix
postage stamp A postage stamp is a small piece of paper issued by a post office A post office is a public facility that provides mail The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcard A postcard or post card is a piece of thick ...
s of countries that a mailpiece passed through in transit. The UPU provides that stamps from member nations are accepted along the entire international route.


Further developments

The Treaty of Bern had been signed by 21 countries, 19 of which were located in Europe. After the General Postal Union was established, its membership grew rapidly as other countries joined. At the second
Postal Union Congress The Postal Union Congress is the main international meeting of the Universal Postal Union, used to discuss various issues affecting international postal services, such as legislation, the political climate, and other strategic issues. The first cong ...
in 1878, it was renamed the Universal Postal Union. French was the sole official language of the UPU until English was added as a working language in 1994. The majority of the UPU's documents and publications – including its flagship magazine, ''Union Postale'' – are available in the United Nations' six official languages French, English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish. Toward the end of the 19th century, the UPU issued rules concerning stamp design, intended to ensure maximum efficiency in handling international mail. One rule specified that stamp values be given in numerals, as denominations written out in letters were not universally comprehensible. Another required member nations to use the same colors on their stamps issued for post cards (green), normal letters (red) and international mail (blue), a system that remained in use for several decades. After the foundation of the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization aiming to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for harm ...

United Nations
, the UPU became a
specialized agency United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United Nations and each other through the co-ordinating machinery of the United Nations Economic and Social Council at the intergovernmental level, and through t ...
of the UN in 1948. It is currently the third oldest international organization after the Rhine Commission and the
International Telecommunication Union The International Telecommunication Union is a list of specialized agencies of the United Nations, specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for all matters related to information and communications technology, information and co ...

International Telecommunication Union
.


Terminal dues


Origin

The 1874 treaty provided for the originating country to keep all of the postage revenue, without compensating the destination country for delivery. The idea was that each letter would generate a reply, so the postal flows would be in balance. However, other classes of mail had imbalanced flows. In 1906, the Italian postal service was delivering 325,000 periodicals mailed from other countries to Italy, while Italian publishers were mailing no periodicals to other countries. The system also encouraged countries to remail through another country, forcing the intermediate postal service to bear the costs of transport to the final destination. Remailing was banned in 1924, but the UPU took no action on imbalanced flows until 1969. The problem of imbalanced flows became acute after
decolonization Decolonization (American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States ( ...
, as dozens of former European colonies entered the UPU as independent states. The
developing countries A developing country is a sovereign state with a less developed Industrial sector, industrial base and a low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries. However, this definition is not universally agreed upon. There is also no ...
received more mail than they sent, so they wanted to be paid for delivery. In 1969, the UPU introduced a system of terminal dues. When two countries had imbalanced mail flows, the country that sent more mail would have to pay a fee to the country that received more mail. The amount was based on the difference in the weight of mail sent and received. Since the Executive Council had been unable to come up with a cost-based compensation scheme after five years of study, terminal dues were set arbitrarily at half a
gold franc The gold franc (currency code: XFO) was the unit of account for the Bank for International Settlements from 1930 until April 1, 2003. It was replaced with the special drawing right. It was originally based on the French Franc#French Empire and Re ...
(0.163 SDR) per kilogram.


Modifications

Once terminal dues had been established, they became a topic of discussion at every future Postal Union Congress. The 1974 Congress tripled the terminal dues to 1.5 gold francs, and the 1979 Congress tripled them again to 4.5 gold francs. The 1984 Congress increased terminal dues by another 45%. The system of terminal dues also created new winners and losers. Since the terminal dues were fixed, low-cost countries that were net recipients would turn a profit on delivering international mail. Developing countries were low-cost recipients, but so were developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. Since the dues were payable based on weight, periodicals would be assessed much higher terminal dues than letters. The continuing fiscal imbalances required repeated changes to the system of terminal dues. In 1988 a per-item charge was included in terminal dues to drive up the cost of remailing, an old scourge that had returned. To resolve the problem with periodicals, the UPU adopted a "threshold" system in 1991 that set separate letter and periodical rates for countries which receive at least 150 tonnes of mail annually. The 1999 Postal Congress established "country-specific" terminal dues for industrialized countries, offering a lower rate to developing countries.


Shifting balances and the United States

In 2010, the United States was a net sender because it was mailing goods to other countries. That year, the United States Postal Service made a $275 million surplus on international mail. In addition, the UPU system was only available to state-run postal services. Low terminal dues gave the
United States Postal Service The United States Postal Service (USPS; also known as the Post Office, U.S. Mail, or Postal Service) is an independent agency A regulatory agency or regulatory authority, is a Public benefit corporation Public-benefit corporation is a te ...
an advantage over private postal services such as
DHL DHL is today an international brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertisi ...

DHL
and
FedEx FedEx Corporation, formerly Federal Express Corporation and later FDX Corporation, is an American multinational Multinational may refer to: * Multinational corporation, a corporate organization operating in multiple countries * Multinational f ...

FedEx
. To protect its profits on sending international mail, the United States voted with the developing countries to keep terminal dues low. They were opposed by the German Bundespost and the Norwegian Post, which wanted to increase terminal dues. However, the low terminal dues backfired on the United States due to shifts in mail flows. With the growth of
e-commerce E-commerce (electronic commerce) is the activity of electronically buying or selling of Product (business), products on online services or over the Internet. E-commerce draws on technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic funds transfer, su ...

e-commerce
, the United States began to import more goods through the mail. In 2015, the United States Postal Service made a net deficit on international mail for the first time. The deficits increased to $80 million in 2017. The UPU established a new remuneration system in 2016, a move that the
United States Department of State The United States Department of State (DOS), or State Department, is an executive department The United States federal executive departments are the principal units of the Federal government of the United States, executive branch of the fede ...
said would "dramatically improv USPS's cost coverage for the delivery of ... packets from China and other developing countries." However, the Chairman of the
Postal Regulatory Commission The United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states ...
disagreed.


2019 Extraordinary Congress

With the outbreak of the
China–United States trade war The China–United States trade war () is an ongoing economic conflict between the China, People's Republic of China and the United States. In January 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump began Trump tariffs, setting tariffs and other trade barrie ...
in 2018, the issue of terminal dues was pushed into the forefront. Americans complained that mailing a package from China to the United States cost less than mailing the same package within the United States. At the time, the UPU's Postal Development Indicator scale was used to classify countries into four groups from richest to poorest. The United States was a Group I country, while China was a Group III country, alongside countries like Mexico and Turkey that had similar
GDP per capita Lists of countries by GDP per capita list the countries in the world by their gross domestic product Gross domestic product (GDP) is a monetary Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money ba ...

GDP per capita
. As a result, China paid lower terminal dues than the United States. The
Donald Trump administration Donald Trump Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is an American politician A politician is a person active in party politics A political party is an organization that coordinates candidate A candidate, or nominee, is ...
complained that it was "being forced to heavily subsidize small parcels coming into our country." On 17 October 2018, the United States announced that it would withdraw from the UPU in one year and self-declare the rates it charged to other postal services. The Universal Postal Union responded in May 2019 by calling, for only the third time in its history, an Extraordinary Congress for 24–26 September 2019. The members voted down a proposal submitted by the United States and Canada, which would have allowed immediate self-declaration of terminal dues. The UPU then unanimously passed a Franco-German compromise to allow self-declared terminal dues of up to 70% of the domestic postage rate and increase the UPU terminal dues by 119–164%, phasing in both changes from 2021 to 2025. In addition, countries receiving more than 75,000 tonnes of mail could opt in to self-declared terminal dues on 1 July 2020 in return for a $40 million "contribution" to the UPU. The United States was the only country that received more than 75,000 tonnes of mail. Trump adviser
Peter Navarro Peter Kent Navarro (born July 15, 1949) is an American economist and author. He served in the Trump administration as the Assistant to the President, Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, and the national Defense Production Act policy coor ...
declared that the agreement "more than achieved the President's goal," but he denied that the United States was "buying" the deal with its "contribution". UPU Director Siva Somasundram hailed the agreement as "a landmark decision for multilateralism and the Union."


Standards

Standards are important prerequisites for effective postal operations and for interconnecting the global network. The UPU's Standards Board develops and maintains a growing number of
international standards An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task which is applied to a common and repeated use of rules, conditions, guidelines or character ...
to improve the exchange of postal-related information between postal operators. It also promotes the compatibility of UPU and international postal initiatives. The organization works closely with postal handling organizations, customers, suppliers and other partners, including various international organizations. The Standards Board ensures that coherent regulations are developed in areas such as
electronic data interchange Electronic data interchange (EDI) is the concept of businesses electronically communicating information that was traditionally communicated on paper, such as purchase orders and invoices. Technical standard A technical standard is an established no ...
(EDI), mail encoding, postal forms and meters. UPU standards are drafted in accordance with the rules given in Part V of the "General information on UPU Standards" and are published by the UPU International Bureau in accordance with Part VII of that publication.


Member countries

All
United Nations member states United may refer to: Places * United, Pennsylvania United is located in Mount Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. It is a community located near Norvelt, Pennsylvania. History In 1881, the United Coal Company, United Coal & ...
are allowed to become members of the UPU. A non-member state of the United Nations may also become a member if two-thirds of the UPU member countries approve its request. The UPU currently has 192 members (190 states and two joint memberships of
dependent territories A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency (sometimes referred as an external territory) is a territory A territory is an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, ...

dependent territories
groups). Member states of the UPU are the
Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Città del Vaticano; la, Status Civitatis Vaticanae),—' * german: Vatikanstadt, cf. '—' (in Austria: ') * pl, Miasto Watykańskie, cf. '—' * pt, Cidade do Vatica ...

Vatican City
and every except
Andorra Andorra (, ; ), officially the Principality of Andorra ( ca, Principat d'Andorra), is a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French ( ...

Andorra
,
Marshall Islands The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands ( mh, Aolepān Aorōkin Ṃajeḷ), is an independent near the in the , slightly west of the . Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of . The countr ...
, the
Federated States of Micronesia The Federated States of Micronesia (; abbreviated FSM), or simply Micronesia, is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is oft ...
, and
Palau Palau (), officially the Republic of Palau ( pau, Beluu er a Belau) and historically ''Belau'', ''Palaos'' or ''Pelew'', is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territori ...

Palau
. These four states have their mail delivered through another UPU member (France and Spain for Andorra, and the United States for the
Compact of Free Association The Compact of Free Association (COFA) is an international agreement establishing and governing the relationships of free association between the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United St ...
states). The overseas constituent countries of the
Kingdom of the Netherlands , national_anthem = ) , image_map = Kingdom of the Netherlands (orthographic projection).svg , map_width = 250px , image_map2 = File:KonDerNed-10-10-10.png , map_caption2 = Map of the four constituent countries shown to scale , capital = ...
(
Aruba Aruba ( , , ) is an island and a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands , national_anthem = ) , image_map = Kingdom of the Netherlands (orthographic projection).svg , map_width = 250px , image_map2 = File:KonDerNed-10-1 ...

Aruba
,
Curaçao Curaçao ( ; ; pap, Kòrsou, ) is a Lesser Antilles The Lesser Antilles ( es, link=no, Antillas Menores; french: link=no, Petites Antilles; pap, Antias Menor; nl, Kleine Antillen) are a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea The Cari ...
and
Sint Maarten Sint Maarten (, ) is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands , national_anthem = ) , image_map = Kingdom of the Netherlands (orthographic projection).svg , map_width = 250px , image_map2 = File:KonDerNed-10-10-10.png , ...

Sint Maarten
) are represented as a single UPU member, as are the entire
British overseas territories The British Overseas Territories (BOTs), also known as United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are fourteen dependent territory, territories all with a constitutional and historical link with the United Kingdom. They are remnants of the B ...

British overseas territories
. These members were originally listed separately as "Colonies, Protectorates, etc." in the Universal Postal Convention and they were
grandfathered A grandfather clause (or grandfather policy, grandfathering, or grandfathered in) is a provision in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases. Those exempt from the new rule ...
in when membership was restricted to sovereign states.


Observers

Palestine __NOTOC__ Palestine may refer to: * State of Palestine, a ''de jure'' sovereign state in Western Asia * Palestine (region), a geographic region in Western Asia * Palestinian territories, territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely the West ...
is an observer state in the UN, and it was granted special observer status to the UPU in 1999. In 2008
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
agreed for Palestine's mail to be routed through
Jordan Jordan ( ar, الأردن; tr. ' ), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,; tr. ') is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In ge ...

Jordan
, although this had not been implemented as of November 2012. Palestine began receiving direct mail in 2016. In November 2018, Palestine signed papers of accession to the UPU. However, its bid for membership was defeated in September 2019 by a vote of 56-23-7, with 106 countries not voting, which fell short of the required two-thirds majority of the UPU membership.


States with limited recognition

States with limited recognition State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, U ...
must route their mail through third parties, since the UPU does not allow direct deliveries.


Congresses

The Universal Postal Congress is the most important body of the UPU. The main purpose of the quadrennial Congress is to examine proposals to amend the acts of the UPU, including the UPU Constitution, General Regulations, Convention and Postal Payment Services Agreement. The Congress also serves as a forum for participating member countries to discuss a broad range of issues impacting international postal services, such as market trends, regulation and other strategic issues. The first UPU Congress was held in Bern, Switzerland in 1874. Delegates from 22 countries participated. UPU Congresses are held every four years and delegates often receive special philatelic albums produced by member countries covering the period since the previous Congress.


Philatelic activities

The Universal Postal Union, in conjunction with the
World Association for the Development of Philately In its most general sense, the term "world" refers to the totality of entities, to the whole of reality or to everything that is. The nature of the world has been conceptualized differently in different fields. Some conceptions see the worl ...
, developed the
WADP Numbering System The WADP Numbering System (WNS) is a project referencing postal stamps issued in the world since 1 January 2002. It is monitored by the World Association for the Development of Philately (WADP) and the Universal Postal Union. Its inventory is made p ...
(WNS). It was launched on 1 January 2002. The website displays entries for 160 countries and issuing postal entities, with over 25,000 stamps registered since 2002. Many of them have images, which generally remain copyrighted by the issuing country, but the UPU and WADP permit them to be downloaded.


Electronic telecommunication

In some countries, telegraph and later telephones came under the same government department as the postal system. Similarly there was an International Telegraph Bureau, based in Bern, akin to the UPU. The
International Telecommunication Union The International Telecommunication Union is a list of specialized agencies of the United Nations, specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for all matters related to information and communications technology, information and co ...

International Telecommunication Union
currently facilitates international electronic communication. In order to integrate postal services and the Internet, the UPU sponsors .post. Developing their own standards, the UPU expects to unveil a whole new range of international digital postal services, including ''e-post''. They have appointed a body, the ''.post group (DPG)'', to oversee the development of that platform.


See also

* World Post Day *
List of postal entities This is a list of postal entities by country. It includes: *The governmental authority responsible for postal matters. *The regulatory authority A regulatory agency or regulatory authority, is a Public benefit corporation Public-benefit corpor ...
* List of national postal services *
S10 (UPU standard) The UPU Upu or Apu, also rendered as Aba/Apa/Apina/Ubi/Upi, was the region surrounding Damascus )), is an adjective which means "spacious". , motto = , image_flag = Flag of Damascus.svg , ima ...


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

* *


External links

* {{Authority control
Commercial treaties{{Cat main, Commercial treaty Economic treaties History of international trade International trade law International trade ...
History of Bern International trade law International trade organizations July 1948 events October 1874 events Organisations based in Bern Organizations established in 1874 +A Postal system Switzerland and the United Nations
United Nations specialized agencies United Nations specialized agencies may or may not have been originally created by the United Nations, but they are incorporated into the United Nations System by the United Nations Economic and Social Council acting under Articles 57 and 63 of th ...
World government