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US steps up talks with Taiwan to secure chip supply chain

Industry meeting with de facto embassy on island after Biden signs executive order

The U.S. wants Taiwanese companies to help it build a more robust semiconductor supply chain.

TAIPEI -- Washington has stepped up its efforts to win more collaboration and investment from Taiwan's key chip and tech companies after President Joe Biden signed an executive order to review critical U.S. supply chains.

William Brent Christianson, the director of American Institute in Taiwan -- Washington's de facto embassy to the democratic self-ruled island -- on Thursday met dozens of Taiwanese chip and supply chain executives to urge a closer partnership with the U.S., Nikkei Asia learned. He also set out U.S. aims to attract more Taiwanese investment into the U.S.

Representatives from the German Institute Taipei and the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, the de facto embassies of Japan and Germany in Taiwan, also joined the meeting, according to the document obtained by Nikkei.

The meeting came hours after Biden ordered scrutiny of the country's supply chain, requiring the Department of Commerce to submit a report within 100 days to identify risks to semiconductor manufacturing, advanced packaging supply chains, electric vehicle batteries, and rare earth minerals supplies.

Washington wants to bring critical parts of the chip supply chain onto its own soil. The president has said supply chain vulnerability should not be used as "leverage" against the U.S.

Chipmakers including United Microelectronics, Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing, Vanguard International Semiconductor, MediaTek, Nanya Technology, and many others joined the closed-door discussion, according to the document seen by Nikkei Asia.

Some key material and equipment vendors including LCY Chemical -- which has just signaled its intention to make its largest overseas investment in the U.S. -- as well as TongTai Machine and Tool, Taiwan's biggest machine tool builder, were also invited.

Many U.S. and European companies' local executives also joined the talk, including Qualcomm, Micron, Texas Instruments, Synopsys, Arm, and STMicroelectronics.

"One of the key themes is that the U.S. hopes us to side with them and work together with them, and they hope to make clear that the U.S. not only cares about the biggest market leader like TSMC which already made new investment in the U.S. but it also values all the key players in the chip and tech ecosystem," a source with direct knowledge told Nikkei Asia, referring to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's largest contract chip-maker.

The AIT confirmed the meeting in a Facebook post highlighting Taiwan’s role in secure supply chains.

"Today, Director Christensen delivered keynote remarks at SEMI’s 'Meet the Gov' luncheon, where he spoke to Taiwan semiconductor industry representatives about the significance of the U.S.-Taiwan trade relationship and their critical role in securing supply chains around the world," the post said.

Washington has been urging a reshaping of global supply chains amid the ongoing tech war with Beijing and the global coronavirus pandemic.

Taiwan is playing an important role in supporting the U.S. campaign given the democratic-ruled island's advanced tech supply chains. China views Taiwan as a wayward province and does not rule out the option to take control of the island by force.

The AIT hosted its first public forum on supply chain restructuring in Taipei in September last year, together with EU, Canadian, and Japanese counterparts, to publicly advocate decoupling from China.

TSMC in May last year announced its intention to build a $12 billion advanced chip production facility-- its first in 20 years--in Arizona, a step praised by then secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who said it would bolster the security of the U.S.

TSMC's move has generated a ripple effect, attracting its suppliers such as LCY to also invest in the U.S.

LCY, one of the world's biggest producers of chemicals for semiconductors, told Nikkei Asia that it plans to build a plant in the U.S.

Marketech International, a semiconductor facility builder and supplier to TSMC, and Chang Chun Group, a petrochemical supplier to TSMC, have also expressed their intentions to invest in the U.S. following the Taiwanese chipmaker's announcement.

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