Taiwan has made important improvements in its rules-making procedures. But some additional steps are needed.
The Tsai Ing-wen administration deserves hearty applause for its extension of the notice and comment period for new laws and regulations from 14 to 60 days, an initiative that propels Taiwan to the front rank in Asia in the area of public rule-making. The change greatly improves the workings of Taiwan’s Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by providing all interested parties with a chance to weigh in on new regulatory proposals, but more still needs to be done to ensure that the new system works as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Those were the key messages in a presentation given by Dan Silver, general manager in Taiwan for Abbott Laboratories Vascular Division and Standing Vice Chairman of AmCham Taipei, at the Transparency Dialogue attended July 28 by representatives from numerous Taiwanese government agencies and visiting American officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Commerce.
In the presentation, entitled “Regulatory Coherence: Making the Most of Taiwan’s APA Achievements,” Silver described the broad input made possible by the longer consultation period as a type of crowdsourcing. By collecting ideas from numerous sources and allowing the pros and cons of all proposals to be duly considered, the system helps ensure that new rules are necessary, practical, and well-thought-out, easing the later workload for both regulators and the regulated.
Other crucial aspects of the system are the requirement that government agencies respond to the comments in aggregate, and the government’s establishment of well-designed, user-friendly online platforms – such as the join.gov.tw website – to facilitate communication between the public and the authorities.
To ensure that the mechanism receives wide utilization by stakeholders, Silver encouraged the government to take more steps to boost public awareness and participation, including the enlisting of high-ranking officials and other prominent opinion leaders to spread the word. Inclusion of English-language capability on the websites would also open the platforms to ideas from experts and other interested parties around the world, he suggested.
Silver’s presentation also noted that of the regulations proposed since the new notice and comment requirement went into effect last October, only 60% had complied with the 60-day provision. The rest made use of exemptions such as the need for emergency action. Silver recommended measures to ensure that exceptions to the 60-day rule are rare.
He also suggested that agencies who sometimes use the Q&A sections on their websites (rather than formal announcements) to make known important re-interpretations of regulations should refrain from that practice as contrary to the transparency the recent APA reforms intend to promote. And he advised that government agencies need more time than the currently mandated 14 days to respond to public comments in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner.
Overall, however, he stressed that the revised notice and comment procedure is such an outstanding achievement that Taiwan should look for ways to share its know-how and experience in this respect with other countries around the world.