A Significant Initiative by the Executive Yuan

In an executive order likely to have far-reaching implications in improving the transparency and effectiveness of Taiwan’s regulatory process, the Executive Yuan in early September issued a directive extending the notice and comment period for proposed regulations from the current 14 days to 60 days.

The new system took effect from the beginning of this month, and applies to all regulations proposed by government ministries and agencies, as well as to draft laws dealing with trade, investment, or intellectual property rights that are being considered by the Executive Yuan for submission to the legislature.

AmCham Taipei enthusiastically applauds this initiative, and commends Premier Lin Chuan and the National Development Council for recognizing its importance. Providing a 60-day notice and comment period has been among the Chamber’s top priorities for the past two years. As AmCham Chairman Dan Silver noted in an email to all Chamber members, the executive order moves Taiwan “closer to world-class practices for regulatory transparency” and “signals Taiwan’s readiness to make significant reforms to prepare for its bid” to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The Chamber also did its best to spread word of this welcome change through letters to officials in key U.S. government offices (including the National Security Council, State Department, Commerce Department, and USTR), leading American industry associations, and prominent scholars of administrative law. In those letters, AmCham praised the new policy as a sign of the new administration’s “willingness to proactively engage the public and industry stakeholders.”

Previously, the 14-day period (increased just last year from only seven days) left insufficient time for meaningful input from concerned parties about prospective new rules or revisions to existing rules. Often deficiencies in proposed regulations became apparent only after the rules were already implemented. The longer notice and comment period will contribute to the drafting of more thoroughly considered, more effective regulations and will further boost the democratic spirit of broad public engagement.

Although the new executive order addresses what had been one of the chief shortcomings in Taiwan’s rule-making process, more remains to be done to ensure that this reform achieves its full effectiveness. At the most basic level, all those who are potentially affected by a new regulation – including industry, civic organizations, and members of the public at large – need to be informed about the new system and encouraged to provide their input. The government can help by making the process as easy and user-friendly as possible, for example by creating a single centralized website that uses a uniform format for notice and comment on all new laws and regulations, no matter which ministry has proposed them.

Equally important, the various ministries need to be prepared to provide meaningful responses to major themes that emerge from the public comments, and to be open to revising the initial drafts of regulations to reflect useful suggestions that are submitted. In the past, even if comments could be offered in time, the communication was nearly always one-way, with little or no feedback.
Finally, a sound rule-making process requires the setting of mandatory sunset provisions, so that regulations do not remain on the books forever without being periodically reviewed to ensure their continued relevance and appropriateness.

The 60-day period provides an excellent framework for positive government-public interaction. The task ahead is to utilize that framework to its utmost potential.