As the U.S. intensifies public engagements to have the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passed by the U.S. Congress by the end of this year, the Taiwan Government has already launched reform initiatives aiming to prepare Taiwan to potentially join the TPP. Such an accession has indeed been identified by President Tsai Ing-wen as a key strategy to revive Taiwan’s stagnant economy.
In line with this ambition, the Taiwan Government on September 20 elevated its trade negotiating team to the top Cabinet level, underlining Taiwan’s drive for better integration into the global economy. Similarly, the Administration’s 32 priority bills released on September 13 include several initiatives aimed at bringing Taiwan’s trade practices up to the TPP’s high standards, including the area of intellectual property rights protection.
While we commend the Taiwan Government for these important developments, we also urge it to speed up other reforms as part of its efforts to align with TPP’s standards. Such initiatives would be good for the Government as well as for the business community.
In particular, adopting the OECD’s “Better Regulation” principles – which can be summarized as openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness, coherence, and proportionality – would serve to promote high-quality regulation that is consistent, promotes innovation, and is compatible with competition, trade, and investment principles. This initiative has been endorsed by numerous organizations, such as APEC.
Another important means to enhance current regulatory practices in Taiwan would be to ensure that any proposed regulation is supported by robust scientific evidence as well as by an accurate, timely, and complete regulatory impact assessment (RIA) that examines potential alternative measures and conducts a cost-benefit analysis of these various alternatives. Equally important is to ensure that any regulatory proposals undergo broad public consultation in a transparent way with all stakeholders, making certain that no groups are excluded.
The TPP abides by the principles described above by requiring its member governments to publish their proposed regulatory measures, allowing for a minimum of 60 days for comments by stakeholders and stipulating that these comments be considered in the rule-making process. This procedure is very common practice in developed countries; for instance, many U.S. agencies even provide 180 days for the public to comment on draft regulatory measures.
Likewise, in Taiwan, the National Development Council has been pushing for adoption of an RIA mechanism, and the Cabinet recently instructed government agencies that as of October 1, a 60-day comment period should be provided for all proposed regulations, as well as for proposed legislations applicable to trade, investment, or intellectual property rights.
These are very encouraging developments and we urge the Government to expand the application of the 60-day comment period to all proposed legislations impacting the general public in any way. Adopting a science- and evidence-based policy-making approach and implementing a comprehensive RIA for all proposed regulations across all sectors and all industries would likewise be highly commendable.
Embracing the principles of “Better Regulation” would not only ensure the development of robust and high-quality regulation in Taiwan, thereby making a better case for the country’s potential TPP membership, but more generally would also promote openness and transparency, contribute to Taiwan’s economic growth and development, and foster trust-building among the Government, the business community, and the general public in Taiwan.