The following article is written by guest writer Kate Muth, executive director of the International Mailers Advisory Group (IMAG), a trade association representing a diverse community of marketers, consolidators, and international mailing organizations.
Last week, President Trump signed into law a sweeping legislative package aimed at addressing the opioid crisis in this country. One part of the massive new law includes The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, or better known by its acronym, the STOP Act.
The STOP Act seeks to stem the movement of opioids through the international mail system by requiring foreign posts to provide advance electronic data (AED) on all packages or packets (under 2 kg.) containing goods sent to the United States. AED includes data such as the sender’s name and address, the recipient’s full name, weight and value of the package and its contents. The U.S. Postal Service would collect the data from the originating postal operator and pass it on to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which would allow CBP to better target illicit narcotics in the mail.
As our infographic highlights (shown below in its full version), foreign posts would have to transmit AED on up to 70 percent of packages by the end of this year and on 100 percent of packages by January 2021. China, Hong Kong, and Macau posts would need to transmit AED on 100% of its packages by the end of December.
The law allows for some exceptions around meeting these aggressive timelines, notably:
1. A country’s ability to collect the data.
2. The risk a country poses.
3. low volume of shipments to the United States.
In addition, language in the bill directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a report by June 30, 2019, (another extremely aggressive timeline) assessing the progress toward hitting the goals, the quality of the data, the benefits of the information received, and the costs of collecting the information from foreign posts. GAO could also produce recommendations, including legislative recommendations, for improving compliance.
The law directs the Postal Service to collect $1 on inbound Express Mail Service (EMS) to pay for the new requirements.
IMAG members recognize the importance of AED not only in combatting illicit drugs in the mail, but in targeting counterfeits. Outbound consolidators have been providing advance data for years. But questions remain around aspects of the STOP Act. Among them, will the $1/inbound EMS be enough revenue to offset the costs of the new law? If not, U.S.-based international mailers worry they will end up bearing the costs.
Other questions center on how the Postal Service should handle shipments without AED. The obvious solution is for the USPS not to accept shipments without getting the AED, but how to handle the shipments that inevitably come through, only to discover they do not have AED? The Postal Service could ship them back to the originating post, but what if that post won’t pay the cost? Again, the fear is that those costs get passed on to Postal Service customers.
Finally, and this is huge, we need to understand that many posts are not close to being able to comply with the AED requirements. An efficient global standard must be developed to support effective data transfer between 191 independent postal administrations and their respective and distinct customs authorities. The Universal Postal Union (UPU) system provides the best framework to achieve that standard. Indeed, the second phase of the Integrated Product Plan at the UPU provides an ideal platform for collaboration toward useful and robust AED from all countries. It’s another reason IMAG strongly believes the United States should remain in the UPU.