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International mail: which country gets paid

Heymatt:

Curious as to how an international letter works through the United States Postal Service? How does the USPS get paid and how much does the country receiving the letter get? Do both countries just have a “flat fee” program to expedite payment?

— Larry, South Mission Beach

International mailing is overseen by the Universal Postal Union, which maintains headquarters in Bern, Switzerland. The agency was created in 1874, before which time it was a royal pain to send mail around the world. For starters, you would have had to affix a stamp for every country your letter traveled through, which is totally ridiculous but probably the best they could do in a world where heroin was available over the counter. With the creation of the United Nations, the UPU became a specialized subset of that confederacy, despite the fact that both its age and reach are greater than that of the UN.

In terms of compensation for international mail, the standard solution is quite elegant. Participating nations pay what are called “terminal dues” based on the difference in weight mailed between the two countries. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that 42,000 pounds of mail travel from Canada to Russia every year, but only 36,000 pounds go from Russia to Canada. The two countries call the 36,000 pounds a tit-for-tat exchange and Canada gives Russia a little payout to cover the extra 8000 pounds of Canadian mail that was delivered to Russian addresses. It’s a little bit more complicated than that in reality, mostly because magazines are heavy and the U.S. has special relationships with some countries, but for the most part it’s as ridiculously smart and simple as I’ve presented it.

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Heymatt:

Curious as to how an international letter works through the United States Postal Service? How does the USPS get paid and how much does the country receiving the letter get? Do both countries just have a “flat fee” program to expedite payment?

— Larry, South Mission Beach

International mailing is overseen by the Universal Postal Union, which maintains headquarters in Bern, Switzerland. The agency was created in 1874, before which time it was a royal pain to send mail around the world. For starters, you would have had to affix a stamp for every country your letter traveled through, which is totally ridiculous but probably the best they could do in a world where heroin was available over the counter. With the creation of the United Nations, the UPU became a specialized subset of that confederacy, despite the fact that both its age and reach are greater than that of the UN.

In terms of compensation for international mail, the standard solution is quite elegant. Participating nations pay what are called “terminal dues” based on the difference in weight mailed between the two countries. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that 42,000 pounds of mail travel from Canada to Russia every year, but only 36,000 pounds go from Russia to Canada. The two countries call the 36,000 pounds a tit-for-tat exchange and Canada gives Russia a little payout to cover the extra 8000 pounds of Canadian mail that was delivered to Russian addresses. It’s a little bit more complicated than that in reality, mostly because magazines are heavy and the U.S. has special relationships with some countries, but for the most part it’s as ridiculously smart and simple as I’ve presented it.

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Comments
5
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
Feb. 2, 2019

USPS is my first preference when it comes to international mail. Liteblue is named on which they are doing this all the works to make the better nation in terms of postal services. USPS Liteblue employees are a great job and one should prefer this one over any other services about emails.

Feb. 27, 2019

I loved that this article by Matt Alice has resurfaced on the Reader website. I've always wondered how that works out. I miss Matt. She was a great researcher and funny too.

Feb. 27, 2019
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
April 16, 2019
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
Oct. 23, 2019

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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