Universal Postal Union Treaty Withdrawal in mid-October 2019

jantango

Registered
The Trump administration is attacking voting rights again - this time the rights of Americans abroad - through their plans to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union in mid October as part of their trade war abroad. If the withdrawal goes forward, postal mail service to the United States will be thrown into disarray and the USPS expects postal service to and from the States to be massively disrupted. More information on the projected withdrawal here.

This move will hit voters from abroad hard. Beyond the widespread, unprecedented disruption to personal, business and financial affairs that the withdrawal would create, voters abroad would not be able to return their ballots or ballot requests by standard postal mail for weeks or months following the withdrawal.

Just consider - in 2018, 67% of ballots from abroad were returned by postal mail.

Call your Senators and your Representative and demand that they pressure the Trump administration to stop this nonsense now.

  • Demand they push for the Trump administration to allow the uninterrupted flow of overseas mail to the US
  • Remind them that your ability to vote depends on being able to get your overseas ballot back to the US on time, and that goes for everyone voting abroad in every state and district across the country.
  • Consider including a personal story of your experience returning your overseas ballot, or other ways you depend on sending and receiving mail to and from the US.
Contact your governor and state legislators and ask them to step up to preserve your right to vote from abroad.

Whether you’re voting for President or town council members, the rules that determine how you can request, receive and return your ballot are decided at the state level. State legislation can make it harder for you to vote from abroad, or it can create a path around the mess that will be made by the Postal Union withdrawal.

1. Use this guide from Vote From Abroad to look up your state’s ballot delivery methods.

2a. If your state requires ballot requests and/or returns be sent by mail (and not email/online submission), contact your governor and state legislators.

  • Ask that they push for legislation in 2020 which allows their military and civilians abroad to submit their absentee ballot requests (aka “FPCAs”) and overseas ballots by email or online submission.

2b. If your state allows ballot requests and/or returns to be done online or via email, consider letting your governor and state legislators know how much you appreciate these essential, modern solutions which ensure that you can easily and securely request and return your ballot. In order for these options to be maintained, it’s helpful for them to know why it matters to you!

Protect your right to vote!

  • If you aren’t registered to vote yet and will vote in any of these states, register to vote as an overseas voter NOW -- before the UPU withdrawal.

Go to www.votefromabroad.org and click “start” to fill out your voter registration form and overseas absentee ballot request. Then mail it in ASAP.

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. Connecticut
  4. Florida
  5. Idaho
  6. New Jersey
  7. New York
  8. Oregon
  9. Rhode Island
  10. South Dakota
  11. West Virginia
  12. Wisconsin
  13. Wyoming

Thank you for your attention - and for your action!

All the best,

Julia Bryan
Global Chair, Democrats Abroad


 

ben

Registered
I have not studied this intensively, but from what I’ve read this is hysteria for the sake of hysteria.
The US is not about to stop receiving mail. Period. Full stop.

This negotiation is not about whether or not the US gets mail. It is about money.
Even the page linked above provided context sorely missing from the above post.

The point is very simple: because of antiquated agreements still in force, it is cheaper to send a package from Shanghai to New York than from Washington to New York. The USPS is losing money on each and every packet sent from China - to say nothing of the economic damage the unfair competition causes to US manufacturers, or even to US importers. It is, in short, a serious impediment to the US economy.

The seminal piece that you need to read:
The United Nations is helping subsidize Chinese shipping. Here’s how.

There are many other good pieces, like this in the Washington Post, or this in the National Review. This page on Reddit is also great. These all predate Trump. And there are many, many, more.

If there is one area where Trump’s zero-sum logic actually rings true, where there are no gray areas, basically no nuance, where certain countries are indeed ripping the US off, it is in this area of postal subsidies. And there’s no way of renegotiating this, without a credible threat. The system is already place, favors “developing” countries so massively it defies belief, and provides such “developing” countries such as China no incentive to renegotiate. The reality is that no serious debate can even be had before the US exits the UPU. It’s one of the few places where Trump’s willingness to break the crockery may pay dividends. And it’s definitely not about stopping mail-in ballots.
 

FallenAngel

Registered
Wow, this is one of the most incorrect, sensationalist, propaganda garbage posts I have ever read on baexpats. How the stopping of subsidizing mail from foreign countries to the US, causing everyone in the US to pay more for mail in the process, is framed as violating people's voting rights is beyond me. It is stupid beyond compare.
 

TheDonald

Registered
The Trump administration is attacking voting rights again - this time the rights of Americans abroad - through their plans to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union in mid October as part of their trade war abroad. If the withdrawal goes forward, postal mail service to the United States will be thrown into disarray and the USPS expects postal service to and from the States to be massively disrupted. More information on the projected withdrawal here.

This move will hit voters from abroad hard. Beyond the widespread, unprecedented disruption to personal, business and financial affairs that the withdrawal would create, voters abroad would not be able to return their ballots or ballot requests by standard postal mail for weeks or months following the withdrawal.

Just consider - in 2018, 67% of ballots from abroad were returned by postal mail.

Call your Senators and your Representative and demand that they pressure the Trump administration to stop this nonsense now.


  • Demand they push for the Trump administration to allow the uninterrupted flow of overseas mail to the US
  • Remind them that your ability to vote depends on being able to get your overseas ballot back to the US on time, and that goes for everyone voting abroad in every state and district across the country.
  • Consider including a personal story of your experience returning your overseas ballot, or other ways you depend on sending and receiving mail to and from the US.
Contact your governor and state legislators and ask them to step up to preserve your right to vote from abroad.

Whether you’re voting for President or town council members, the rules that determine how you can request, receive and return your ballot are decided at the state level. State legislation can make it harder for you to vote from abroad, or it can create a path around the mess that will be made by the Postal Union withdrawal.

1. Use this guide from Vote From Abroad to look up your state’s ballot delivery methods.

2a. If your state requires ballot requests and/or returns be sent by mail (and not email/online submission), contact your governor and state legislators.

  • Ask that they push for legislation in 2020 which allows their military and civilians abroad to submit their absentee ballot requests (aka “FPCAs”) and overseas ballots by email or online submission.

2b. If your state allows ballot requests and/or returns to be done online or via email, consider letting your governor and state legislators know how much you appreciate these essential, modern solutions which ensure that you can easily and securely request and return your ballot. In order for these options to be maintained, it’s helpful for them to know why it matters to you!

Protect your right to vote!


  • If you aren’t registered to vote yet and will vote in any of these states, register to vote as an overseas voter NOW -- before the UPU withdrawal.

Go to www.votefromabroad.org and click “start” to fill out your voter registration form and overseas absentee ballot request. Then mail it in ASAP.

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. Connecticut
  4. Florida
  5. Idaho
  6. New Jersey
  7. New York
  8. Oregon
  9. Rhode Island
  10. South Dakota
  11. West Virginia
  12. Wisconsin
  13. Wyoming

Thank you for your attention - and for your action!

All the best,

Julia Bryan
Global Chair, Democrats Abroad
The problem with socialists is that, while socialism is predominantly an economic theory, the great majority of socialists don't know anything about economics and have never cracked an economics textbook. Their unwillingness to learn anything new or read an economics text compounds the problem. They just blindly advocate a theory that gives them stuff for free, paid for by other people. And they hide behind the political process to make their parasitic aims legit. This post is a perfect example.

The UPU is one of the most abused, outdated and distortionist aspects of international trade. It allows a scumbag chemist in Shanghai to send a package of fentanyl to San Francisco, for less than it costs a merchant in Chicago to send a package of the same weight to San Francisco. Ever wonder why when you search "down jacket" on Amazon you get decent listings for down jackets for $20? Ever wonder why you can buy a replacement charger cord for your cellphone for $1 on ebay? Two reasons - first, such products from China are subsidized by the Chinese state, in violation of WTO trade rules. Second, the UPU.

Ignorant consumers, like most socialists, simply look at lower prices and think the UPU is a good thing. They fail to recognize the market distortions produced by the UPU. I am all for free trade and globalism - when prices are calculated based on the true costs of production. The UPU allows international merchants, such as state subsidized vendors from China, to ship products into the US at below true cost. This destroys american industry and destroys american jobs, fills US landfills with cheap, throwaway, disposable plastic, and reduces tax intake of various levels of american government.

Sometimes American industries have to die. This is the creative destruction of economics. I understand this. But American industry should not die because of an abusive and outdated market distortion that favors international merchants over domestic merchants. How can it cost less to ship a package from Shanghai to San Francisco, than from Chicago to San Francisco? That defies logic.

Weaker American leaders, like Obama, were unwilling to address these unfair aspects of international trade. The Trump Administration has realized that for years, weaker American leaders have allowed America to become the world's doormat. The UPU is a perfect example - foreign economies economies prosper at American expense. My only regret is that Trump did not withdraw us from the UPU on day 1 of his administration.
 

Pierre Smith

Registered
It's not about weakness of the US leadership, it's about the benefit to US consumers and Trump's unique willingness to inflict unpopular measures upon the people, measures that increase the cost of daily life. Aside from the socialists, you can always tell the people who know little about the circulation of goods in the economy by how quickly they refer to "economics 101" or even economics more generally. This change will increase the cost of these China-sourced objects for US consumers by a lot, and the transition of this trade to the shipping lines will push up the cost of container space by some amount, relatively small but not negligible, in the short and medium terms, until new capacity comes online.

Maybe it's still positive that all these importent things will all cost more - the small plastics trade will still come from China or some other such country, but the higher cost will decrease consumption at some margin, and maybe the same is true for all imported good, and for sure less consumption is good for the environment. And maybe in the longer term, the higher cost will bring production of some of these articles to the US. But this UPU change is not some unqualified positive move that was obviously necessary, and your opinion is just as unnuanced as the post on voting.
 

Pierre Smith

Registered
And just to make it clear since I'm not convinced what I'm saying is obvious to people who don't understand trade:

1) the UPU change will instantly make USPS transportation unviably expensive;
2) these products will not be replaced by US-sourced equivalents, at least not in the short term or even medium term;
3) the transportation of these goods will move onto the shipping lines;
4) the volume of trade is sufficient that these goods will push up the cost of container space in the short and medium terms, until significantly greater container volume comes online (ie. more ships are built or repurposed);
5) the net result of these changes is that the cost of the class of product that's coming in via the USPS will jump a lot, and the cost of everything else will increase a small but not negligible amount, on the higher cost of container space.

Now, probably this trade-off is worth it for several reasons - it will incentivize bringing production closer to home, it will reduce consumption by some non-trivial amount (which many people think is good), it will reduce the deficit by some amount, and make USPS' annual begging tour of the halls of the Congress a little less painful.

But, it's not an obviously good thing, considering the relatively small numbers we're dealing with on the subsidy side, the relatively high volume of objects in the class we're talking about, and the jump in costs we're seeing here. Remember, this isn't just people buying cheap stuff on ebay, this is local US retailers buying in bulk, shipped in 4 pound packages, and reselling across the US.

All of this also should consider that the major beneficiary of these moves will be Mexico - production there of this class of goods will increase because of cheaper labor and shipping, and the NAFTA.

And the point of all this is to underline that this change is not obviously good or obviously bad. The discourse in our country right now is just ridiculously unnuanced and tribal. Both of the posters (the OP and the guy I'm responding to) occasionally make quality contributions to this board, but both of their posts here are information-less, totally uninformed posts about stuff they don't understand but think they do, and the reason they think they understand these things is because they get their information from political rather than industry/trade sources or objective news sources. As, I assume, older people, it's their right, and something of a tradition in the US. But this poor quality of discourse is a real problem in the country right now.
 
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Stantucker

Registered
And just to make it clear since I'm not convinced what I'm saying is obvious to people who don't understand trade:

1) the UPU change will instantly make USPS transportation unviably expensive;
2) these products will not be replaced by US-sourced equivalents, at least not in the short term or even medium term;
3) the transportation of these goods will move onto the shipping lines;
4) the volume of trade is sufficient that these goods will push up the cost of container space in the short and medium terms, until significantly greater container volume comes online (ie. more ships are built or repurposed);
5) the net result of these changes is that the cost of the class of product that's coming in via the USPS will jump a lot, and the cost of everything else will increase a small but not negligible amount, on the higher cost of container space.

Now, probably this trade-off is worth it for several reasons - it will incentivize bringing production closer to home, it will reduce consumption by some non-trivial amount (which many people think is good), it will reduce the deficit by some amount, and make USPS' annual begging tour of the halls of the Congress a little less painful.

But, it's not an obviously good thing, considering the relatively small numbers we're dealing with on the subsidy side, the relatively high volume of objects in the class we're talking about, and the jump in costs we're seeing here. Remember, this isn't just people buying cheap stuff on ebay, this is local US retailers buying in bulk, shipped in 4 pound packages, and reselling across the US.

All of this also should consider that the major beneficiary of these moves will be Mexico - production there of this class of goods will increase because of cheaper labor and shipping, and the NAFTA.

And the point of all this is to underline that this change is not obviously good or obviously bad. The discourse in our country right now is just ridiculously unnuanced and tribal. Both of the posters (the OP and the guy I'm responding to) occasionally make quality contributions to this board, but both of their posts here are information-less, totally uninformed posts about stuff they don't understand but think they do, and the reason they think they understand these things is because they get their information from political rather than industry/trade sources or objective news sources. As, I assume, older people, it's their right, and something of a tradition in the US. But this poor quality of discourse is a real problem in the country right now.
Hey, watch the cracks us grumpy, totally partisan old folks.
 

Ries

Registered
One thing that Pierre is saying, which some full time Argentine resident expats may not be aware of- In the last few years, Amazon has completely changed the American retail landscape. Everybody else is losing market share, and often, going broke entirely- we are seeing entire shopping malls close, big players like department stores and chains like Sears vanish entirely overnight.

And Amazon consists of 40% chinese vendors who ship direct from China. The biggest retailer in the USA, and 40% of its business is affected by this rule. So a gigantic amount of everyday purchases by ordinary people will go up in price.

Americans buy an incredible amount of normal things on Amazon- If you have prime, shipping is free. I buy canned catfood, for instance, as its delivered to my door, at a 30% discount from driving 20 minutes and buying it at the grocery store. It doesnt come from China, but yesterday, I got a package of screw eyes in the mail that did- again, at half the price of the local hardware store, which doesnt stock that size anyway, and without the 3 bucks in gas it would have cost me to drive to town. This is normal- everyday my mailman in the US delivers between 300 and 500 parcels on my route alone, from Amazon, and about half are direct from China.
(I live both in the USA and in Buenos Aires, and have for 12 years now, if you wonder how I manage to buy on Amazon)


Long term, I am actually in favor of raising the price of USPS from China, and restricting the flow of cheap crap- even though I do benefit from it, its often something I have very mixed feelings about. It will help some US companies. Certainly it will not suddenly create millions of new US jobs, or, affect foreign trade deficits much- just shift them to other countries.

But Trump is doing this strictly for political propaganda reasons- he has no clue of the economics, and doesnt care. And it will have a big effect.

There is no way that tube sock or cigarette lighter factories will come back to the USA. The low cost, low quality consumer goods manufacturing is actually leaving China, as China is too expensive in terms of wages and costs these days, and moving down to Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Phillipines and Indonesia.

So, yes, many products will just get more expensive in the USA. The cost of a dollar plastic lighter at the gas station may double- but that is not going to spell a huge increase in sales for $50 US made Zippos.

And, yes, it will affect mailing in ballots for US citizens overseas, which will require paying more and planning more. That part of it could easily be corrected by the US government, but Trump wins by having fewer people vote, so he wont do it. Perhaps his successor will fix it.
 
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FallenAngel

Registered
I cannot believe this thread is continuing with this none-sense. Trump Derangement Syndrome is a powerful disease. I am fully convinced that if tomorrow Trump adopted the Bernie Sanders political plan that the Democrat base would start rejecting free healthcare and education.

There is no way that tube sock or cigarette lighter factories will come back to the USA. The low cost, low quality consumer goods manufacturing is actually leaving China, as China is too expensive in terms of wages and costs these days, and moving down to Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Phillipines and Indonesia.
I do not understand what this change has to do with tube socks or cig lighters. The shipping subsidy is based on weight. It cares not for the products value or manufacturing complexity, so it looks like you are trying to distract us with noise. Tube socks may be a visible product in your mind, but I assure you there are complex, higher value products that fit the weight limits.

Regardless, if even 0.000001% of manufacturing went back to the US it is a net-win for the US at no cost. The "US Consumers" saving money is a non-sensical argument from the start when that savings is paid for by "US Taxpayers". The two groups have enormous overlap and thus all savings are canceled. If US gov wants a policy to favor some consumer segment, then it can already do that through reduced taxes and many state govs do this (no sales tax on consumer essentials, for example). However, to subsidize a foreign manufacturer in order to increase the purchasing power of a consumer group is the most American-Last policy I have ever heard!
 

ben

Registered
I find @Pierre Smith’s last 2 posts to have a rather bad ratio of preachiness, if not outright sneering (the “older people” bit? Really?) to sound argument.

For one, I highly doubt that the Obama Administration, or administrations before it, made a calculated decision to (continue to) ship shit from China at a loss to the federal government (commonly known as a “subsidy”) with the aim of reducing the cost to the US consumer. Had they made that calculated decision, it would have reflected such astonishingly bad judgement as to make the charge of (comparatively) weak leadership look positively anodyne by comparison.

Besides, one can explain prior administrations’ reluctance to take this on, simply in terms of the US’s general commitment to the greater international order. That - the general commitment to the US’s role as a responsible player in the international system - has traditionally been a heavy factor when considering whether or how to address one quirk or another. The general stability of the international order and of the US’s place in it was deemed more important. You can debate whether that should be so, but at any rate there are excellent arguments outside of “weak leadership” in favor of maintaining the status quo.

Whether this consideration should outweigh others is immaterial at this point: that ship has long since sailed. The general expectations of the US’s predictability, in areas large and small, has been blunted if not outright shattered. Again, whether that’s good or bad (on the whole, I think it’s pretty bad) is irrelevant; it’s happened. And since it has happened, there is little sense in keeping precisely those aspects of the order that make no sense by any yardstick. And one of the areas that make no sense whatsoever, and are long due for a shake-up, is the UPU Terminal Dues system.

The USPS should not be footing the bill of Chinese imports, period. Full stop. To the extent that reduces the cost to the consumer, it’s an artificial reduction paid for by the US taxpayer, and should not be happening. It’s a rare imbalance the correction of which is supported across the board. And if in the (probably very) short term shipping capacity is reduced, so be it. Are you really suggesting that to perpetuate this absurd system is somehow, preferable?

I did some brief Googling, and have found nearly no support for leaving the current system in place. An exception is this piece in the Hill whose headline promised to explain “Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US”. The arguments are predictably weak.
  • First off is that it keeps prices down (we dispensed with this earlier).
  • Next is the aforementioned voting angle, which is almost certainly exaggerated.
    • The US is too big a mail destination to ignore - postal services will have to negotiate a new deal in relatively short order.
    • As for costs rising - the likelihood that this will raise the cost of letter mail (which is, last I checked, what a ballot is) enough to discourage a voter who went to the trouble of voting by mail in the first place, is pretty close to zero.
  • Finally, postal cooperation in combating opioid smuggling is brought up as a factor, which is simply ludicrous. To the extent that this cooperation takes place, it would certainly be insisted upon in the context of an updated agreement.
After reading it, I wondered who would advance such feeble arguments. Sure enough, the author heads two UN-centric foundations. That explains things.

Lastly, the discussion of doing it now for political purposes makes little sense as well. The US’s departure from the UPU was announced a year ago. If you think that anyone in that administration is capable of planning that far ahead, over some mail-in ballots, you haven’t been paying attention.
 
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