Minister conveys concerns to AIT about information disclosure

10/08/2021 10:22 PM
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Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua. CNA file photo
Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua. CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 8 (CNA) Taiwan has conveyed the concerns of Taiwanese semiconductor suppliers to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) over U.S. Department of Commerce requests for these companies to share information.

Economic Affairs Minister Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said Friday she raised concerns over potential confidential leaks resulting from the "Request for Information" (RFI) at a meeting on Wednesday with Sandra Oudkirk, director of the AIT, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan.

The U.S. government held a meeting with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), Samsung Electronics Co., Intel Corp. and others on Sept. 23 on the progress the industry is making to address issues in the semiconductor supply chain, and launched an RFI on the subject the same day.

The RFI asks companies in the semiconductor supply chain to "voluntarily share information about inventories, demand, and delivery dynamics."

Its goal is to "understand and quantify where bottlenecks may exist," according to a statement published on the Commerce Department's website.

These companies have to respond to the questionnaires posted on the Federal Register, a U.S. government website, by Nov. 8.

The RFI was made at a time of a global chip supply shortage, which has squeezed the auto industry worldwide. But the move has sparked fears in Taiwan over possible leaks of confidential information that could result in economic losses.

The U.S. previously asked TSMC to increase its supply, and the world's largest contract chipmaker pledged at the time to increase its production of micro control units (MCUs) by 60 percent this year to help alleviate the global automotive chip shortage.

According to Wang, Oudkirk said the U.S. did not single out Taiwanese semiconductor firms through the RFI, as suppliers from South Korea to Germany had also received the questionnaires.

Wang said companies that received the questionnaires are allowed to answer the questions "voluntarily," emphasizing they do not have to share confidential business information.

The U.S. is an important customer of the Taiwanese semiconductor industry, and she believed Taiwanese companies will disclose information they think they can share.

She said the government will provide necessary assistance to Taiwanese companies to safeguard Taiwanese brands, adding that she has faith that they will do their best to protect their shareholders and clients.

In an emailed reply to CNA's request for comment, AIT spokesperson Edward Dunn said information submitted by companies may contain business proprietary information, and that the information will not be published and will be protected upon disclosure.

"With the goal of accelerating information flow across the various segments of the supply chain, identifying data gaps and bottlenecks in the supply chain, and potential inconsistent demand signals, the RFI is asking that all parts of the supply chain -- producers, consumers, and intermediaries -- to voluntarily share information about inventories, demand, and delivery dynamics," Dunn said.

TSMC reiterated that it will not disclose any information to harm its clients.

United Microelectronics Corp., the second largest contract chipmaker in Taiwan, did not say whether it has received the questionnaire from the U.S. but added that information about its clients will be well protected.

For its part, Powerchip Technology Corp., another Taiwanese foundry service provider, said it will answer questions about the general market but will not provide data involving clients and its own operations.

(By Lin Yu-hsuan, Chang Chien-chung and Liang Pei-chi and Frances Huang)

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