Have you ever had to fill out a customs declaration for an international package and wondered how that information is used? All that customs data, called Advance Electronic Data, or AED for short, is turned into electronic data that is shared between posts to help expedite the shipping and delivery process. AED also has other benefits and can potentially save lives. For example, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can use AED to identify and stop incoming packages that may contain lethal opioids and other illicit goods.

In 2017, Congress identified AED as a key tool to help stem the tide of opioids that can come illegally into the United States through the mail. In practice, the Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, an anti-opioid law passed in 2018, mandates that all postal packages entering the U.S. from international posts must have AED starting in January 2021.

A recent OIG white paper reviewed the challenges to implementing this portion of the STOP Act. While preparation is well underway, it’s not yet clear what will happen to packages with poor or wrong AED, or no AED at all. If, say, a consumer abroad enters the wrong weight or skips the entire section of the customs declaration form, will the package still be delivered here in the U.S.? Or will it be delayed, returned, or even destroyed?

The OIG found many foreign posts are still struggling to capture and transmit reliable AED. As a result, the Postal Service will not fully meet all STOP Act requirements by the January deadline. But the Postal Service is taking steps to improve compliance, including technical cooperation with foreign posts, bilateral or multilateral agreements, and the use of incentives and penalties.

What do you think? In addition to transmitting AED, what could foreign posts and the Postal Service do to prevent opioids from getting shipped into the U.S. as international mail?

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