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IC tech controls unlikely to affect Taiwanese suppliers: Official

12/06/2023 02:54 PM
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Unsplash photo for illustrative purpose only
Unsplash photo for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, Dec. 6 (CNA) A newly unveiled list of core technologies that will be subject to tighter controls, including semiconductor processes, will not likely affect the operations of Taiwanese vendors, Economic Affairs Minster Wang Mei-hua (王美花) said Wednesday.

Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony where an agreement was signed on the formation of a 5G alliance in Taiwan, Wang said the government had extensive discussions with local semiconductor makers before the list was released.

"I don't think the controls will have any negative impact on Taiwanese semiconductor suppliers," Wang said. "Instead, the controls aim to protect (Taiwan-developed) critical technologies."

On Tuesday, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) announced a set of 22 technologies subject to tight controls in five major areas: defense, aerospace, agriculture, semiconductors and ICT (information and communications technology).

The 22 technologies include two semiconductor technologies that are more advanced than the mature 14 nanometer process and advanced IC packaging and testing technologies, such as processes involving silicon photonics integration development and related specialty raw materials and equipment.

According to the NSTC, the term "key technologies" refers to technologies that, if exported to China, Macau, Hong Kong or "external hostile forces," would significantly harm national security, industrial competitiveness, or economic development under the National Security Act.

The act has mandated higher standards for technology controls in an effort to prevent leaks of critical technologies, Wang said.

Under the act, those who steal local key technologies for and leak these technologies to China, Macau, Hong Kong or external hostile forces will face a jail term of up to 12 years and a fine of up to two times the profits they have earned.

Wang also cited the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area as saying companies that receive subsidies equal to more than 50 percent of their costs in developing critical technologies should secure approval in advance before sending employees to China.

Also Tuesday, Industrial Development Administration head Lien Ching-chang (連錦漳) said Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world's largest contract chipmaker, is unlikely to feel any pinch from the list of critical technology controls.

TSMC, whose advanced chipmaking processes are coveted by many economies, rolls out chips made on technologies superior to the 14nm process in Taiwan, while in China, its chips only use 14nm to 16nm processes, which account for 10-12 percent of its total sales.

"I don't expect TSMC to be bothered by the newly announced technology controls," Lien said, stressing that the controls on the 14nm or more advanced processes were in line with international standards, referring to the United States.

He said Taiwan accounts for more than 70 percent of the global production of chips made using processes superior to the 14nm process, and that these chips are widely used in communications, artificial intelligence development and automotive electronics.

Smaller contract chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp. said it will follow the new tech controls, noting that it only uses technologies more advanced than the 14nm process in Taiwan to make chips, while in China it only uses the 22nm and 28nm processes.

Meanwhile, Liu Pei-chen (劉佩真), a researcher at the Taiwan Industry Economics Database under the Taiwan Institute of Economics Research, said she agreed with the government's move to tighten controls on critical technologies.

It was needed, Liu said, not only because Taiwan has to build a localized supply chain in the semiconductor industry but also to prevent leaks, in particular at a time when China is keen to poach Taiwanese engineers.

Liu said the silicon photonics technology used in advanced IC packaging and testing services is an important emerging technology that requires protection.

(By Liu Chien-ling, Tseng Chih-yi, Chang Chien-chung, Chung Yu-chen and Frances Huang)

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