AmCham committees have the chance to interact with the appropriate government agencies.
When AmCham Taipei released its 2017 Taiwan White Paper, it expressed regret that not a single one of the 80 issues cited in the previous year’s edition as detriments to the investment climate had been completely resolved.
Fortunately, AmCham’s concern was shared by the government. President Tsai Ing-wen instructed the National Development Council to work more closely with the Chamber on tackling the issues, and the NDC set up a schedule of quarterly meetings with AmCham committees to review the progress of White Paper items.
The meetings, and the personal attention given the issues by NDC Minister Chen Mei-ling, have made a big difference. In 2018, a record 11 of the 83 issues were rated as fully resolved and another 21 marked as showing substantial progress. This year’s level – 8 resolved and 15 making good progress out of 71 issues – was a bit lower, but still quite positive compared to most previous years.
Now the review process has begun for the current round of White Paper suggestions – those included in the 2019 edition released at the end of May. The initial quarterly meeting was held at the NDC on November 26, with Minister Chen presiding. Over a total of three hours, seven AmCham committees raised their priority issues and received responses from representatives of the relevant government agencies. The remaining committees will have their chance at two more sessions scheduled for December 5 and 19.
Some of the key topics covered at the first meeting included:
Medical Devices. One of the committee’s prime objectives is to streamline the licensing approval and reimbursement-pricing process for new medical technologies and innovative medical devices. Time-to-market is particularly important for medical devices because the constant development of new technologies can quickly make existing products obsolete.
Due to the prolonged regulatory process, however, new products are often launched in Taiwan long after they have been introduced in other markets. The delay is frustrating for doctors and deprives patients of access to the latest treatments.
During the discussion, the idea was raised of borrowing the “sandbox” concept from the financial-services sector, providing greater pricing flexibility to facilitate the entry of products into the market, for example through full or partial self-pay. After surgeons gain experience with the new technology and its market acceptance has been tested, the National Health Insurance Administration could more easily set a reimbursement price.
The meeting also helped clarify with the Customs Administration how Country of Origin regulations on imported medical devices should be handled, given that a device may contain parts and components from numerous countries and undergo final assembly in yet another.
Pharmaceuticals. Besides thanking the government for launching a Patent Linkage system for pharmaceuticals and congratulating the National Health Insurance Administration for the high public approval rating it received in a recent survey, the committee urged the authorities to ensure that sufficient budget is available for new, innovative drugs to meet patients’ needs.
Public Health. The committee has pledged to support the government’s goal of eliminating Hepatitis C in Taiwan by 2025. It has also encouraged the government to strengthen the national vaccination program against various diseases and to strengthen measures to prevent osteoporosis in Taiwan’s rapidly aging population.
The AmCham attendees came away feeling optimistic that the vaccination budget could be further expanded and that osteoporosis-awareness measures can be adopted under the long-term care program that the government is promoting.
Cosmetics. New legislation requires each cosmetics product to undergo an evaluation by a qualified Safety Assessor, which for imported products could be personnel in another country. The industry representatives felt assured that the training courses will be offered in both Mandarin and English, both on- and off-line, and will be designed to be meaningful, not just specifying the number of hours of instruction.
Retail. The committee urged that Taiwan’s regulations on dietary supplements be aligned with international standards and that a mechanism be adopted to try to prevent inconsistent interpretations by different government agencies.
Regarding a White Paper issue on the methodology for labeling imported alcoholic beverages to maintain traceability in case of problems, the committee reported that a consensus had been reached with the National Treasury Agency, but that it was yet to be determined how well the system would work in practice.
Chiropractic. Taiwan and South Korea are the only two countries in the world that have made no provision for acceptance of the chiropractic profession as a contributor to national healthcare. The major obstacle has been opposition from the Taiwan Medical Association, which has taken a protectionist stance. The chiropractic doctor members of AmCham urged the NDC to make another effort to find a breakthrough, and it appeared that further discussion would take place in 2020.
Tobacco. The industry constantly cautions against steep increases in cigarette taxes as a means of discouraging smoking, noting that the usual impact is to increase the smuggling of cheap, untaxed cigarettes into the market. Minister Chen said there is currently no plan to increase taxes on tobacco products.
AmCham President William Foreman praised the positive interaction at the meeting. “This was an excellent beginning for the next cycle of communication with the government,” he told TOPICS. “I feel confident that we can make a lot of progress on the issues in the coming months.”