By Merry Law
2021: ANOTHER YEAR
OF INTERNATIONAL MAIL CHANGES
ore changes in international mail are coming as I write this in early June, continuing what mailers experienced earlier this year and in 2020. The COVID pandemic was — is — responsible for some changes; others are changes in laws or regulations in the US and other countries. The consequences from the pandemic touched all classes of mail. The legal and regulatory changes affect primarily packages and physical goods (as opposed to letters or documents). The same declines in letter volumes and increases in e-commerce package volumes that we’re seeing in domestic volumes are happening internationally. One unanticipated positive result of the changes we’ve seen appears in the USPS financial statements: the volume of international mail decreased, but the revenue from international mail increased. While international mail has often been profitable over the years, the higher profitability is due to the substantial increase in what
JULY-AUGUST 2021 | MailingSystemsTechnology.com
the USPS charges other countries for packages coming into the US. US mailers are also seeing higher postage rates to other countries because of the self-declared rates for packages approved at a UPU extraordinary congress in October 2019. Whether the US Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act enforcement, postage increases, and competition from non-postal carriers will further decrease volumes and start depressing revenue won’t be clear for many months. The STOP Act took effect on January 1, 2021. The Act mandates that all inbound items to the US have Advanced Electronic Data (AED) sent to USPS and forwarded to Customs. Customs can provide temporary exemptions for countries, and mitigation of problematic items is possible. (Both the US and the EU countries are facing problems with the completeness and accuracy of inbound AED.) Which countries are exempt is not publicly available, nor are specifics of what mitigation is possible before packages are returned to whatever countries
sent them. The Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) published its interim final rule, due in October 2020, in February 2021, allowing a one-year phase-in of the enforcement actions. Exactly when and how more rigorous enforcement will be implemented is not clear, but it is coming. Capacity on air carriers to transport mail is returning as the pandemic lessens, although it is not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2023 or later. USPS staff handling the contracting of transit capacity are again able to schedule sufficient air lift in a timely manner to many destination countries. As the roller-coaster ride of the pandemic ends here in the US, closures and restriction continue as other countries mandate measures to control COVID outbreaks. Many countries have not reinstated signatures by the recipient, with delivery personnel verifying receipt. As vaccination rates remain low worldwide, particularly in less developed countries, closures and restrictions are likely to continue into 2022 and 2023.
Mailing Systems Technology July/August 2021