Postal Competitors on USPS' Case

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Postal competitors are, indeed, watching the U.S Postal Service closely these days.

At UPS' urging, for example, U.S. Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) commissioned a Government Accounting Office report into whether USPS customs practices are fair. The report found that more burdensome customs requirements apply to parcels handled by major private express carriers than to the USPS, particularly when it uses its Global Package Link (GPL) program to ship mail-order parcels to Japan.

Richard Barton, senior vice president of congressional affairs at the Direct Marketing Association, said the study "shows that the postal service does not receive any overwhelming advantages over UPS or other parcel carriers. It shows that there are differences in how parcels are handled, but, overall, there is not any obvious or inherent advantages that the postal service offers."

Jim Campbell, a Washington-based lawyer representing Federal Express, disagreed. He said the report is significant because "it is the first report that I know of by the U.S. government that looks at the difference in customs between postal and private shipments. But, it is hardly the last word. It is not very comprehensive, and it just focuses on GPL and customs in Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom."

Campbell said the position of the private companies is not that "the simplified clearance available to the postal service should be taken away or that the post offices of the worlds should abide by the complicated procedures that we have to abide by. Our position is that simplified treatment ought to be available to everybody."

Deborah K. Willhite, senior vice president of government relations at the USPS, wrote to Congress last week, urging it to disregard the GAO report and the legislation by Rep. Anne M. Northup (R-KY) and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), who last month suggested subjecting international mail to the same rate-making procedure as domestic mail.

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