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Presidential office denies Tsai involved in TSMC's U.S. plan

ROC Central News Agency

05/15/2020 08:29 PM

Taipei, May 15 (CNA) The Presidential Office has denied that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) played a role in Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.'s (TSMC's) decision to build an advanced wafer plant in the United States, but said Tsai welcomed the plan.

Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) said Friday that TSMC is a well-known multinational company that plans operating strategies based on the needs of its business development.

"President Tsai is delighted to see any investment that is helpful to Taiwan's economic development, but she will not get involved," Chang said, in response to a report in Apple Daily.

The report said TSMC's plan to invest US$12 billion to build an advanced wafer plant in Arizona was based on "political considerations."

It said TSMC, the world's largest contract chipmaker, was lobbied by the U.S. government and the Tsai administration to announce its intention to invest a large sum in the U.S., with Tsai serving as the lead lobbyist.

Under political pressure, TSMC had no choice but to make such a quick decision to build a state-of-the art wafer plant in the U.S. amid lingering concerns over trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, the report said.

TSMC posted a filing on the Taiwan Stock Exchange as recently as Monday saying it had no concrete plans to invest in the U.S., although the company confirmed it had been in talks with American authorities.

Just four days later, it announced its intention to build a 5nm process wafer fab in Arizona at a cost of US$12 billion, which is expected to directly create 1,600 jobs and indirectly add thousands of other jobs in the semiconductor ecosystem.

Before TSMC's announcement, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that both the U.S. State and Commerce Departments were involved in the plan.

According to TSMC, construction of the 5nm process wafer plant is scheduled to start in 2021 and mass production is expected to begin in 2024, with a monthly production of 20,000 units.

U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo praised TSMC for the investment, calling the deal "a game changer for the U.S. semiconductor industry that will bolster American national security and our economic prosperity."

In response to TSMC's plan, Science and Technology Minister Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said the investment was a rational decision and that Taiwan would still be able to maintain its lead in the global semiconductor industry.

Chen said as the planned Arizona plant will not begin mass production until 2024, and TSMC is planning to launch mass production of the 3nm process in 2022 in Taiwan, the country's lead will not be endangered by the move.

The decision still has to be reviewed by the Investment Commission, which said it will carefully consider such issues as Taiwan's industrial and economic development, technology applications, and national security.

The commission said it has yet to receive an application from TSMC.

The review will be conducted with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Science and Technology and national security authorities, and is expected to take one to two months.

Under the commission's rules, any investment bound for overseas from Taiwan valued at NT$1.5 billion or more needs the commission's approval.

According to TSMC, the Arizona facility will be the company's second production site in the U.S.

Currently, the company runs a fab in Camas, Washington and design centers in Austin, Texas and San Jose, California.

TSMC is currently developing the even more advanced 3nm process which is expected to go into production in 2022.

(By Wen Kuei-hsing, Su Ssu-yun, Wu Po-wei and Frances Huang)

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