THE POST OFFICE has announced a tripartite deal with privately-owned Dutch carrier TNT and Singapore Post. The trio will form a joint venture to deliver business mail across the world, in direct conflict for the first time with national operators. Letter delivery facilities are expected to be pooled, while each will use the others’ infrastructures to construct a global network. Observers also predict that an American partner will be recruited.

The deal is seen as pre-emptive, in advance of the EC postal liberalisation proposals due to be un-veiled by July. These are expected to lead to full implementation by 2003 with liberalisation of global letter deliveries following shortly after.

The Communications Workers Union is highly suspicious of the move, as are many Labour backbenchers, fearing it could be the first stage of backdoor privatisation.