Almost a year ago, the Trump Administration declared that the United States would withdraw from the Universal Postal Union (UPU), a United Nations organization that regulates international mail delivery. The withdrawal could cause severe disruption of international mail, including military mail, to and from the United States.
The 144 year old UPU regulates global mail systems and rates. The Administration’s chief complaint is on behalf of some US companies who are frustrated by the fact that packages sent to the US from other countries, particularly China, have much lower rates than what Americans pay. In many cases, Americans pay three times what China and other countries pay to ship their mail internationally. The UPU will meet at the end of this month to consider changes to the rules and rate structures. If the issue is corrected, the Administration will remain in the Union. If not, major changes will affect military, foreign service and other governmental agency personnel stationed around the world.
Yes, this means that we might not be able to ship our Amazon packages to our overseas duty stations. Our family members won’t be able to mail holiday presents to us, nor us to them, but the disruption is far more serious than what some may perceive as luxuries (I assure you, they are not) as shipment of medical supplies and medications travel through these systems to our Posts, Bases, Embassies and Consulates. Our APO, DPO, and FPO mail, which we’ve come to depend on because it allows us to use the US mail system and its rates, could see significant disruption, if not altogether stoppage. The United States government would then have to negotiate a new bilateral postal service agreement with each country to allow smooth transport of mail, and this will take time.
Military family and other government family associations are working to warn Congress of the destructive implications of the withdrawal from UPU, but it’s the Executive Branch that has the legal authority to withdraw from the Union. The Department of Defense is developing contingency plans, in case the withdrawal occurs and countries do not continue to allow for the special situation of APO, DPO, and FPO mail, to minimize any potential disruptions and continue providing support to families serving abroad.
The immediate reaction by troops and families should be to place orders now to ensure that letters and packages will reach you before the possible withdrawal in mid October. Check on your mail order prescription situation now so that you have plenty of medication on hand, should mail be disrupted.