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'Nightmare' for global postal system if Trump pulls US out: UN agency

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GENEVA : A threat by US President Donald Trump to pull the US out of the global postal system could lead to a "nightmare scenario" of mail going undelivered, packages piling up and American stamps no longer being recognised abroad, the UN postal agency said.

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) has been holding an emergency meeting in Geneva to persuade the US not to follow through on a threat to quit the agency, which sets rules to ensure mail gets delivered around the globe.

The Trump administration wants to charge other countries more than UPU rules now permit to have letters and packages delivered in the US. It has set a deadline of next month for rates to be raised or it will quit.

"It is really a nightmare scenario," UPU secretary-general Bishar Hussein told a news conference, noting that no country had left since the agency was founded nearly 150 years ago.

Were the US to quit the UPU, US stamps would no longer be valid abroad, he said. He said he was "very optimistic" that a compromise could be reached.

The UPU establishes a system for calculating the fees that countries collect from each other to deliver mail that arrives from abroad. Washington says the fees are too low.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who heads the US delegation, called for fixing a system "that everyone in this room knows is broken".

Speaking to journalists, he said: "In an age of e-commerce the US is being forced to heavily subsidise small parcels coming into our country. Many are from China but this is not strictly a China problem."

He said the system meant the US Postal Service was effectively spending US$300 million (S$410 million) to US$500 million to subsidise the cost of delivering imports, including counterfeit goods and drugs mailed from China.

Countries should be allowed to set their own rates, which he said "might cause some very short-term disruptions" but was "the clearest, cleanest, fairest and quickest path to a reform that is long overdue". - REUTERS