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U.S. officials in chip development office to visit Taiwan

2023-03-23
Focus Taiwan
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Pixabay photo for illustrative purpose only
Pixabay photo for illustrative purpose only

Washington, March 21 (CNA) The United States Department of Commerce (DOC) announced Tuesday that it will soon send officials from the United States who are in charge of chip development in the country to Taiwan, Japan and South Korea to promote cooperation in the global semiconductor supply chain.

Michael Schmidt, director of the DOC's Chips Program Office, announced the visit to the three Asian semiconductor heavyweights, marking the first time officials from the office will visit the three countries since it was set up in September 2022.

"As semiconductors and technologies continue to evolve, the United States will keep working with allies and partners to develop coordinated strategies to ensure that malign actors cannot use the latest technologies to undermine our collective economic and national security," Schmidt said.

"In implementing the CHIPS and Science Act, the Department of Commerce is engaged extensively with key partners and allies, including authorities in the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, as well as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the European Union, and the United States Trade and Technology Council, and North American Leaders Summit," Schmidt added.

While the Chips Program Office did not disclose any details about Schmidt's trip to Asia, a senior official from the DOC, who asked not to be identified, said the delegation will include Sam Marullo, the senior policy adviser to the office, and Frances Chang, who supervises international exchanges in the office.

Marullo currently also serves as an advisor to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, while Chang used to be a senior policy advisor to the National Economic Council of the White House before she moved to the Chips Program Office in November 2022 after the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors and Science Act (CHIPS Act) was signed into law by President Joe Biden in August.

When asked whether the delegation will meet executives of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) during their trip to Taiwan, the official declined to confirm a meeting is planned, saying only that the DOC will release the details of the visit at an appropriate time.

"We intend to make this a really important part of our discussions with Korea, Japan, and Taiwan," the official said.

Under the CHIPS Act, the U.S. government will inject US$52.7 billion into the American semiconductor industry to shore up its manufacturing and research/development strength. Funding will include US$39 billion in subsidies provided to companies to build new facilities and expand production capacity in the U.S.

According to a recent report from Reuters, the DOC is planning to take applications in late June from the companies who eye the subsidies.

On Tuesday, the DOC announced the so-called National Security Guardrails, which will ban recipients of U.S. government subsidies from investing in most semiconductor manufacturing in foreign adversary countries for 10 years after the date of being awarded funding. The DOC named China, Russia, Iran and North Korea as the adversary countries against the U.S. or its allies and partners.

The measures also aim to limit funding recipients from engaging in joint research or technology licensing efforts with any of the four countries to develop a technology or product that raises national security concerns, the DOC said.

TSMC is building fabs in the U.S. state of Arizona that will make chips using the 4 nanometer and 3nm processes, with mass production scheduled to begin in 2024 and 2026. The DOC official declined to comment on whether TSMC is seeking subsidies from the U.S. government.

In addition to TSMC, Taiwan-based GlobalWafers Co. has begun construction of a 12-inch silicon wafer plant in Texas, with the aim of beginning mass production in 2024. The investment project was launched after the passage of the CHIPS Act.

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