Better results, but still below expectations.
Each year when AmCham Taipei launches the latest edition of its Taiwan White Paper, the Chamber’s various committees score each of their suggestions from the previous year’s White Paper according to the degree of progress achieved. Last June the scorecard for the recommendations made in 2016 was disappointing to all concerned. Of the 80 issues presented that year, not a single one was rated as belonging to category number 1 – “Solved: Conclusive action has been taken on the issue, with a fair and transparent record of implementation. It is no longer considered a problem.”
With another four months to go in the current advocacy cycle before the launch of the 2018 Taiwan White Paper, AmCham recently undertook a preliminary survey of the status of the 83 issues presented in the 2017 edition. The good news is that the zero-resolution situation will not be repeated this year. So far three committees – Human Resources, Public Health, and Transportation – have reported issues that they judge to have made enough progress to be considered resolved.
In fact, the HR Committee concluded that two of its five issues could be regarded as having been settled satisfactorily – one dealing with the treatment of regulations on overtime work (including the calculation of overtime hours according to the actual time involved) and the second requesting more reasonable regulations governing the handling of employees’ annual leave. In both cases, the resolution was part of the administration’s recent reconsideration of unforeseen complications arising from last year’s amendments to the Labor Standards Act. The Ministry of Labor and Legislative Yuan deserve commendation for responding quickly to the need to remedy those difficulties.
For their part, the Public Health Committee credited the government with providing sufficient funding to build a sustainable national program for the prevention and control of the hepatitis C virus and its related diseases, and the Transportation Committee responded that the Customs administration had accepted its suggestion to establish a communications channel to facilitate transparency and efficiency regarding customs clearance regulations.
As mentioned in the Editorial in this issue, a recent extremely important achievement on a longstanding White Paper issue was passage by the Legislative Yuan of the legal framework for establishment of a Patent Linkage system to strengthen intellectual property rights protection for pharmaceutical products. Once that mechanism is in operation – hopefully before the end of this year – another successful case could be added to the list.
Despite the positive developments in several areas, however, the overall pace of progress has continued to lag substantially behind expectations. When last year’s White Paper scorecard resulted in a “goose egg,” the government announced its determination to take steps to ensure that AmCham committee issues received greater attention. Reportedly at President Tsai Ing-wen’s urging, the Executive Yuan’s National Development Council (NDC) arranged with AmCham to hold a series of quarterly meetings to review the way in which the relevant government ministries and agencies were dealing with AmCham’s concerns as expressed in the White Paper.
To date, two quarterly review meetings have been held in the NDC’s massive conference room, presided over by one of the Council’s vice ministers and attended by AmCham committee representatives and officials from their sectors’ regulatory bodies. Unfortunately these sessions have so far not resulted in any major breakthroughs, although a third meeting is scheduled for February 26.
When the review mechanism was first being set up, the Chamber recommended that the NDC focus its attention in large part on the eight suggestions from the 2016 White Paper that were rated in category 2, meaning “In Good Progress: The issue is currently receiving satisfactory follow-up action from the government.” The assumption was that with some modest additional effort, those issues could be pushed over the goal line. In addition, from among the 2017 White Paper’s total of 80 suggestions, AmCham proposed a list of “12 Priority Issues for Special Attention” – one from each of a dozen committees. The items were selected on the basis of two criteria – that they could potentially have a significant impact on the investment climate and that their resolution would not require time-consuming legislative action.
The 12 Priority Issues consisted of the following:
- Implement a member-choice labor pension scheme as soon as possible.
- Lift regulatory restrictions and provide an incentive framework for the onshore wealth management business.
- Relax securities investment rules to allow wider participation, fostering market growth.
- Recognize other countries’ Cosmetics GMP as equivalent to Taiwan’s under the Cosmetics Act.
- Revise the regulations on overtime work. [As mentioned above, the Committee has rated this issue as resolved. However, the revisions to the Labor Standards Act did not take the further step of adopting the committee’s suggestion to exempt supervisory, administrative, and professional workers from the law’s provisions on working conditions].
- Increase the convenience for consumers to obtain protection insurance.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY & LICENSING
- Enact needed revisions to the Copyright Act.
- Reduce the pre-market registration time.
- Shorten the regulatory and reimbursement approval timeline for new drugs and indications to provide timely patient access to innovative new drugs.
- Increase the number of eligible testing laboratories and ensure that test results can be provided in both Chinese and English.
- Adjust workforce regulations with an eye to maintaining the competitiveness of Taiwan’s technology industries [see the comment under Human Resources].
TRAVEL & TOURISM
- Apply international best practices to refund policies for hotel bookings.
“The AmCham Taipei committees are already at work preparing their position papers for the 2018 White Paper,” notes Chamber President William Foreman. “In the several months remaining before release of the new edition, we very much hope there will further progress, enabling us to congratulate the government on even more issues rated as resolved.”