completion the program laid down by the Postmaster General a few years ago
for thorough reconstruction of the foreign mails system. This program, in the
main, called for the bettering of sea transportation of mails to and from foreign
countries and world wide extension of our international parcel post.
The impetus which the war gave to ship building in this country bids fair to
bring that maritime development that will enable this country to keep in touch
with the rest of the world by numerous and more direct shipping lines. In a
measure upon the shipping program depends the program for the wide extension
of the international parcel post.
The benefit of frequent direct steamship service is not better illustrated
than by the growth of the parcel post between the United States and such of our
Latin American neighbors as enjoy rapid and frequent communication between
their ports and the United States. Take the case of Mexico, with its direct land
communication and the excellent service to its eastern and western ports. Accord-
ing to the latest figures, the United States is sending to that country yearly 127,473
parcels weighing in the aggregate 841,482 pounds. This far surpasses the parcel
post exports to any other country on this hemisphere.
In Central America, Honduras has the best steamship service with us and
it leads in parcel post imports from the United States, with 22,899 parcels weighing
152,507 pounds. In South America, for the same reason, Colombia leads in parcels
imported from the United States with 107,222 parcels weighing 756,633 pounds.
The same ratio holds good with parcels post imported into the United States from
Mexico, Honduras and Colombia, thus indicating that the greatest movement of
parcel post in both directions bears a distinct relation to the frequency and quick-
ness of transportation. One of the noticeable characteristics of the international
parcel post with Latin-America is the great disproportion Between the number of
parcels exported from the United States to Latin-America and those exported
from the countries of Central and South America to the United States. While
in a measure this holds true in the parcel post export trade between the United
States and Europe, the disparity is not as great as between this country and
An obvious reason is that the United States is a manufacturing country
whose products are easily adaptable to the small shipment units necessary to enter
the parcel post. The products of the other American countries run more largely
to raw materials which naturally are less suitable for transportation by mail. I
realize that there are a great many people who feel that a country need not con-
cern itself over the development of imports, but rather over the development of
exports; yet in the development of exchange of commodities between two coun-
tries better and more harmonious relations will result if the volume of the ex-
change is more nearly on an equal basis. In the trade between a country produc-
ing largely finished articles, with a country producing largely raw material, there
will always be a disparity of volume of parcel post in favor of the country pro-
ducing the finished articles, but certainly with intelligent effort this disparity can
be reduced, and the increase in the weight limit of articles entering into the
international parcel post from 11 to 22 pounds, or from 5 to 10 kilograms, lends
itself admirably to this work. I would like to see study and effort directed to
this situation and I can assure our friends of the South of the heartiest coopera-
tion of the Post Office Department of the United States in this work.
Let us take stock for a minute of the international parcel post arrange-
ments between the United States and Latin America, and with that information
before us let us endeavor to work out a program that will enlarge the dealings
on both sides and bring about a still better understanding in the administration
of international parcel post.
276 . SECOND PAN AMERICAN COMMERCIAL CONFERENCE
The United States today has parcel post service with all the countries of
Central and South America, including Mexico. To three of these, Chile, Mexico
and Salvador, there is provision for the registration of parcels and payment of
indemnity in case of loss. To all the other countries except Argentina, Dutch
Guiana and Uruguay, there is provision for registration without indemnity, the
countries last named not yet having accepted a provision for registration.
To ten countries in Central and South America, British Honduras, Guate-
mala, Nicaragua, Republic of Honduras, Salvador, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
and Panama, the maximum weight limit of parcel post packages is 22 pounds, or
10 kilograms, while to the remaining countries the weight limit is 11 pounds, or
6 kilograms. Negotiations are pending with the latter countries on the proposal
of this Department for a like increase in the weight limit of parcels, and it is
hoped that eventually the 22 pound limit will apply to all countries in Central^ and
f In our domestic parcel post service the articles prohibited transmission
therein are, as a rule, limited to those that will injure the person of the postal
employee or destroy, deface, or injure the contents of the mail bags, or are such
as to reflect upon the character of citizens, or are regarded as obscene.
In the foreign mail service, however, there also are many articles pro-
hibited, the restriction imposed being based upon some law or regulation in sup-
port of some trade monopoly in the country of destination, thereby obstructing
a full development of trade relations. For example, there are countries whose
governments have the monopoly of the tobacco trade, or who have given a
monopoly of the trade to some corporation. It will be found with respect to
the services to those countries that tobacco is prohibited transmission in the
parcel post in regular mails. Then again, there are the restrictions with
respect to articles made of gold and silver, which are 'prohibited Because the
articles may not contain enough precious metal to conform with the "sterling" or
"hallmark," requirements of each particular country, although recently there has
been a tendency to permit the bringing in of these articles, with the requirement
that they be submitted for appropriate marking in some government bureau. Again,
many articles are excluded because the governments have sold concessions to firms
engaged in the manufacture of the goods prohibited, and the prohibitions are of
course based upon the desire to protect the individuals or corporation having the
concession or monoply.
An examination of the list of prohibitions in the parcel post for foreign .
countries shows so great a variety of articles prohibited that it is not clear upon
what hypothesis they are excluded. This Department is conducting an inquiry
into the causes of these prohibitions and means for overcoming them. In this
connection, the negotiations for a parcel post convention with Cuba are inter-
esting, and the one conspicuous example where it may be stated that the United
States today is chiefly to blame for the lack of parcel post facilities. The re-
fusal of our Congress to so modify our statutes so as to enable Cuba to utilize
the service in connection with its principal available industry has prevented the
conclusion of a parcel post convention with the Island. The Post Office Depart-
ment, jointly with the Treasury Department, has appealed to 1 Congress for an
amendment of the law, but without avail. The statute in question prohibits the
importation into the United States of cigars and cigarettes in less quantities than
3,000 in a single package, and it is this prohibition that naturally renders Cuba
unwilling to enter into such an agreement, a^ the limitation mentioned would
render the service unavailable to Cuban tobacco dealers, even ^ though the weight
limit were 22 pounds, the present maximum to certain countries. The modifica-
tion of this statute has been opposed by certain cigar makers' unions in the
United States, and unless business men and manufacturers, who should be vitally
interested, render the necessary assistance in securing the modification of this
law, no assurance can be given of the extension in the near future of increased
parcel post facilities to Cuba.
Hand in hand with the parcel post should go the international money order
service, without which parcel post must fail of its fullest benefits and most suc-
cessful operations. We have such service at present with only nine countries in
Central and South America, but it is hoped that pending negotiations will result
in a number of additional conventions in the near future.
As an important link in the promotion of the commercial interests of the
Pan American countries, I should not fail to draw attention to the proposal of
PARCEL POST 277
this Department first submitted in October, 1914, for the application of the do-
mestic rate of the United States to letters for the various other countries of the
Western Hemisphere (where said rate was not already applicable) and the appli-
cation of the domestic rates of those countries on letters for the United States.
As a result of the proposal, the domestic letter rate has already been extended to
British Honduras and British Guiana in Central and South America, and to the
Bahamas, Barbados, Dominican Respublic, Trinidad, and the Windward Islands.
There is another matter closely identified, it is believed, with the exten-
sion and improvement of the postal relations between the countries of North and
South America, concerning which I am prepared to speak, however, only in the
sense of expectation, and that is the next Pan American Postal Congress to
be convened on a date and at a place yet to be selected.
The first Pan American Postal Congress was held at Montevideo in 1911,
at which Congress, however, the United States was not represented. I am pleased
to state that the Postmaster General is anticipating with much interest the delib-
erations and results of the forthcoming or second Pan American Postal Congress,
and has notified the Director of the Pan American Postal Bureau at Montevideo,
Uruguay, of the intention of this Government to send delegates thereto.
PAN AMERICAN PARCEL POST
BY SENOR FRUTOS T. PLAZA, FOREIGN DEPARTMENT, MONTGOMERY WARD & COMPANY
(Read at the Evening Session of Wednesday, June 4)
I have been requested to address you on the subject of Pan American Parcel
Post. This is a question of wide-spread interest and it perhaps concerns more of
our common people and commercial classes than any other matter affecting our
mutual relations. As a justification for making some observations 01^ this subject,
I may say that for the last fifteen years our Company has been shipping merchan-
dise through the mails to most of the nations of the western hemisphere; so that
we have gained by experience a very good understanding of the facilities, obstacles
and requirements in the everyday routine of the parcel post.
The parcel post is today more than ever the quickest and the most economi-
cal medium of obtaining lightweight merchandise from the sources of supply, not
only in the United States but in most of the nations of north, central and jSouth
America. This method of shipment is employed not only by houses dealing directly
with the consumer, but also by those dealing with merchants and importers. The
parcel post is especially convenient for the shipment of small sample orders and
repair parts. It thus has become an item of intense interest to most concerns
indulging in International trade, regardless of what their particular line of busi-
ness and methods of selling may be.
Thanks to the steady efforts of pur Post Office Department, facing at times
discouraging obstacles but with a spirit that is worthy of our commendation^ we
have today parcel post with every one of the Republics of the Pan American
Union. This important factor has placed, I am glad to say, our exporters in the
same favorable position as those of the European nations and has brought about
what may be called the complete establishment of a Pan American parcel post,
opening a new way heretofore but little known ifor the interchange of commodi-
ties between the Republics of the American continent.
Let us consider then some phases of the arrangements whereby packages
may be exchanged by mail between the United States and other countries of Pan
America and discuss the changes that are necessary for their improvement:
(1) Limit of weight; (2) Postage rates; (3) Packing; (4) Necessary
documents ; (5) Suggestions for its improvement.
(1) At present we have four different limits of weight for a parcel, each
depending on the country of destination. To Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala,
Honduras and Nicaragua the limit of weight for a parcel is 22 pounds. To Ecua-
dor, Mexico, Panama and El Salvador 20 pounds. To the Dominican Republic,
Haiti, Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Argentine, Uruguay and Paraguay 11 pounds.
To Cuba 4 pounds 6 ounces.
Exporters by parcel post should bear in mind that the limits of weight are
not the same for all countries so that they rnay take full advantage of the maximum
weight whenever possible. Many people apparently are under the impression that
278 SECOND PAN AMERICAN COMMERCIAL CONFERENCE
the limit of weight is uniformly 11 pounds, and I know of some instances where
shipments have been unnecessarily divided or goods needlessly omitted.
(2) Postage rates on Pan American parcel post are the same to all the
Republics, 12c per pound or fraction thereof, United States currency, registration
charges lOc per package. Registration, however, can not be obtained to the Argen-
tine Republic, Ecuador and Uruguay. The Government at this time provides no
insurance against damage or pilferage and our Company, to protect itself and the
interests of its customers, takes out insurance policies on parcel post shipments in
the same manner that freight is insured.
(3) The item of packing is of vital importance in the successful operation
of parcel post. This is especially true with respect to certain countries of Pan
America. To pack the goods properly and economically the shipper must be
acquainted not only with the local conditions of transportation but also with the
As a general instance, when our Company ships such merchandise as under-
wear, shoes or glassware to the seacoast towns of any of the Latin-American
Republics, we use only ordinary heavy wrapping paper or light wooden boxes
but to the interior towns, especially on the northern and' northwestern coast of
South America, we use waterproof cloth, wooden boxes lined with wax paper
or tin, depending on the nature of the merchandise shipped. By paying particular
attention to this important matter of packing, our losses have been reduced to the
very minimum. In fact, we have made some pretty good records. I remember
one case especially well, where we sent an order to one of our customers living in
a small town in the eastern part of Bolivia near the Brazilian border, made up of
300 packages of 11 pounds each, and after a trip of thousands of miles over water
routes and mountain trails the goods arrived in/ perfect condition not a single
item missing, not a single item damaged. The packages opened up in perfect condi-
tion, just as if they had been shipped from Washington to Philadelphia.
(4) Now let us consider what documents are necessary for shipment by
parcel post to the Republics of Pan America. With the exception of Cuba,
Nicaragua and Chile, there is no need of any consular documents as the duty is
collected according to the weight and valuation shown on a tag that is attached
to the parcel post, known as the Custom's declaration, or according to the ordinary
commercial invoice. To Chile the consular invoice is necessary when the shipment
amounts to $25.00 or more ; to Nicaragua when the amount is $50.00 or more.
These documents are obtainable in the same form and manner as apply to ordinary
freight shipments. The Republic of Cuba, to enable her importers to receive the
benefit of 25 per cent reduction on duty accorded to goods of American manu-
facture, requires that shipments of $5.00 or more be covered by a consular invoice,
duly certified by a Cuban consul. If this item is overlooked by the shipper, a fine
is imposed by the Cuban Custom House authorities on the goods received. When
shipments are for less than $5.00, it is optional with the shipper whether a consular
invoice is supplied and certification when made is free.
(5) It seems that during this distinguished gathering in which there are
so many representatives of the Pan American nations, it will be the opportune time
to make some suggestions that in our opinion, derived from every day experience,
are necessary to make Pan American parcel post more serviceable and competent.
We have had abundant evidence recently that such suggestions will receive the
fullest consideration of the United States Post Office Department, and there is
every reason to believe that the Postal Administrations of the Republics of Cen-
tral and South America will lend the maximum cooperation.
As I have mentioned before, the limit of weight for parcels varies from 4
pounds 6 ounces up to 22 pounds, according to the country of destination. The
Pan American parcel post should have, in our opinion, one standard limit of weight
let us say 22 pounds, with the limit of measurements increased in proportion.
The increased weight of parcels will bring benefits to both the exporter and the
importer. One registration fee will suffice where two is now required. It will
very materially decrease the chances of loss that are always incurred when goods
have to go in many parcels instead of one or two. There is no doubt that by
increasing the weight, parcel post will become more popular and more useful.
This has been proven by experience in our own business, in those countries where
the limit was raised from 11 pounds to 20 pounds some time ago.
Postage is another item that no doubt can be improved. The parcel post
treaty between this country and the other Pan American Republics calls for one
standard rate of postage of 12c per pound or fraction thereof. England employs
a much better system of charges. In her parcel post she uses the group system
PARCEL POST 279
of postage from 1 to 3 pounds, from 3 to 7 pounds and from 7 to 11 pounds
the heavier the package the less the rate of postage. This in itself, you can very
easily see, is a great incentive to shippers and buyers to increase the size of their
parcels and orders.
Consular invoices are demanded by so few of the countries of Pan America
that I shall not dwell upon this subject except in a passing way. In our opinion,
an improvement to the usefulness of the parcel post can be had by doing away
entirely with this requirement. It does not mean much of a gain to anyone in
particular and on the contrary is a source of annoyance to both shippers and
buyers. In one or two cases that we know of, the local consuls in the interior
cities of this country, like Chicago, have not had the authority to certify consular
invoices for parcel post shipments. The invoices must be sent to New York which
means a delay of several days and sometimes weeks.
At present there is no provision for the sending of parcels C. O. D. This
is especially needed to places in Central and South America where the facilities
for pending small remittances are inadequate, or in some cases do not exist at all.
Besides, Latin-American buyers would much prefer to pay the price of the goods
and transportation charges at the time of delivery of the goods rather than to
send the money in advance. Many houses like ours would like very much to ac-
commodate them but find they can not do so as conditions now exist. To a cer-
tain extent we ourselves have been able to overcome this handicap by using the
services of local banks. Parcels are shipped to these institutions and we draw on
the purchaser for the full amount against delivery of the merchandise. This
arrangement of course can not be made general. I doubt if many institutions are
using it. It would be a great thing, therefore, for the parcel post if the United
States Postal authorities and those of the rest of the Pan American Republics
could get together and formulate C. O. D. arrangements. This would add greatly
to the full development of this important medium of trade.
Now Ladies and Gentlemen, I am going to touch on a subject of extreme
importance a subject which I believe has been at some time or other a nightmare
to more than one exporter. This subject is the matter of Custom's duties and
Custom House regulations. This conference has been called the Pan American
Commercial Conference. I consider myself then as in a regular family reunion,
in which we are to discuss our problems with the utmost frankness. Do not con-
sider then what I am about to say as mere criticism, but as constructive criticism ;
it is the only sort of criticism that will make such conferences as this of real
benefit. Unless the Custom House regulations are made easier in each one of the
Pan American Republics, the parcel post to many people will be only an empty
name. It will be used by the few and not by the many to whom it is really sup-
posed to bring .the largest benefit. Complicated Custom House regulations may
easily defeat the purpose for which the parcel post was established. Nothing, in
my judgment, is gained by making Custom House regulations complicated instead
of simple. I am a Latin-American myself and have had discussions on this sub-
ject with Government officials, private individuals and importers of many of the
Pan American nations and without a single exception they all have agreed with
me. There is no question in my mind but that the revenue to each Government
could be increased very materially by simplifying the Custom House requirements,
as this would encourage many people to sell and many people to buy that at present
are rather reluctant because of the obstacles of the present day regulations.
Such a ruling as that now prevalent in Colombia that if articles dutiable
under different tariff classifications are mailed in the same parcel they are all
dutiable at the rate applicable to the article paying the highest rate can not be,
if I may be allowed to say, but detrimental to the proper development of Pan
American trade. This rulfng is an obstacle to the advantage gained by the recent
increase of weight for parcels from 11 to 22 pounds, for if a merchant has to ship
to Colombia half a dozen items of merchandise of different classifications, rather
than run the chance of making his customer pay an excessive amount of duty,
he packs the goods in six different packages instead of only one.
And this is not the only case. In some countries, duty is collected on the
gross weight of the package and an exporter, especially to the interior towns, finds
himself very often in the predicament of not knowing just what to do. On the
one hand the customer demands that the merchandise must be securely packed^so
as to insure its safe arrival. On the other hand he also asks that the packing
should be as light as possible so the duty will not be out of proportion to the value
of the goods ordered. Trying to serve the customer in both cases, the exporter
280 SECOND PAN AMERICAN COMMERCIAL CONFERENCE
generally finds that he has failed to do either. This often results in a dissatisfied
customer and a skeptical exporter, neither of whom is an asset in international
In Venezuela also, according to a decree of September 26, 1918, wrapping
such as cloth, straw and paper used for outer covering will be dutiable at the rate
of a little more than 3c per pound. The decree also calls for a special Custom
House charge of 29c for each parcel imported from the United States when par-
cels coming from other countries are only charged 5c. Failure to specify the goods
according to Custom tariff will subject the importer to a fine of 15 per cent of the
In others, such as Costa Rica and the Argentine Republic, we have found
that the delivery charge surtax placed on the importation of merchandise by parcel
post is so out of proportion, especially on small shipments, to the total value that
in most cases it makes the transaction anything but economical to the purchaser.
Besides this question of duty there is another important drawback against
the extension of the parcel post in Pan America. In such countries as Brazil and