Taiwan Getting Serious About Regulatory Reform

Taiwan’s determination to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) multilateral trade pact at the earliest opportunity is becoming increasingly evident.

Following release early in November of the full text of the agreement recently concluded among the United States, Japan, and 10 other countries, the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Bureau of Foreign Trade began studying the documents’ 30 chapters as well as the numerous annexes and side letters. Within a few weeks, it had also completed translation of the text into more than 2,000 pages of Chinese characters.

On November 24, Vice Premier Simon San-cheng Chang, convening a meeting of the Executive Yuan’s task force responsible for readying Taiwan for entry into both the TPP and the China/ASEAN-centered Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP), handed down strict instructions to the attending representatives from the government’s various ministries and agencies. According to the Vice Premier’s instructions, before the end of March each government department must have scrutinized the TPP text to identify areas in which Taiwan’s current laws and regulations appear out of step with TPP stipulations, held public hearings and otherwise communicated with relevant stakeholders about the likely impact of revising those regulations, and prepared a concrete proposal for how to bring Taiwan into compliance. In cases where action by more than one agency is needed to solve the problem, Chang specified that the Executive Yuan’s National Development Council should take the lead in organizing the necessary coordination.

A news release issued by the Executive Yuan cited a number of examples of potential problem areas that will require attention, including cosmetics labeling requirements, patent protection and the length of data exclusivity for pharmaceuticals, the length of protection of testing results for new agro-chemicals, as well as other aspects of intellectual property covered in the copyright, patent, and trademark laws.

In another breakthrough late in November, the Ministry of Labor confirmed plans to significantly relax restrictions on the employment of foreign white-collar workers in Taiwan – an issue that has been high on AmCham Taipei’s agenda for at least a dozen years. Under the plan, the current requirements that such hirees have at least two years of work experience and receive a minimum salary of around NT$47,000 would be scrapped.

As described in the Issues column in this month’s magazine, the past half year has also brought resolution or substantial progress on a number of the Chamber’s 2015 Taiwan White Paper suggestions. The Agro-chemical, Asset Management, Banking, Customs and International Trade, Human Resources, Infrastructure, Insurance, Medical Device, Pharmaceutical, and Real Estate Committees all reported welcome progress on at least some of their issues.

Of course, many more issues remain that have yet to be satisfactorily attended to. Still, the developments of recent weeks and months are cause for optimism that Taiwan is ready to undertake the process of regulatory reform in a serious way. Making the regulatory system more rational, efficient, and transparent will advance Taiwan’s prospects for second-round TPP membership, ensuring that this export-dependent economy remains a vital part of the international trading community. Equally importantly, regulatory reform will enable renewed vigor to be injected into the economy, stimulating more investment and more job creation to help assure Taiwan’s future prosperity.