Mon, Mar 04, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Academics oppose eight-inch wafer plan

WEIGHING IN The Taiwan Association of University Professors says that allowing eight-inch investment in China would only exacerbate unemployment problems

By Lin Miao-jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of university professors say eight-inch wafer fabs shouldn't be allowed to move across the Strait until the nation's 12-inch foundries have fully ramped up.

The Taiwan Association of University Professors, a group with close ties to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), plans to organize a demonstration on Saturday to make its position heard.

The association joins the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) in opposing plans by chipmakers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電) and United Microelectronics Corp (聯電), who want to move their aging eight-inch facilities to China.

During the past week, the association of university professors has met with more than 20 social, labor and political groups to lobby for support for its planned demonstration, to be held in Taipei.

The group also plans to visit government departments such as the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Council of Labor Affairs to push for support.

"Our position on this issue is don't allow eight-inch chip investment in China until our 12-inch fabs have reached mass production, in order to prevent further unemployment in Taiwan," said Chen I-shen (陳儀深), vice chairman of the association and a scholar at Academia Sinica.

"We hope Taiwanese companies will deepen their roots in Taiwan."

Chen said eight-inch chip production remains a vital part of the nation's electronics industry and has yet to be replaced by more advanced 12-inch foundries.

"We should wait until 12-inch fabs have ramped up, then the eight-inch chip industry can move to China," Chen said. "This should be a reasonable plan for the industry."

TSMC and UMC would prefer to move across the Strait sooner rather than later. The two firms say they need to invest in eight-inch fabs in China as soon as possible to take advantage of the fast-growing market there.

What's more, the two largest makers of chips on a contract basis are already falling behind, as several start-ups have announced plans to set up chipmaking facilities in China.

But Chen said allowing eight-inch investment in China now would exacerbate unemployment.

"If these companies go to China, it's expected that their support companies will also go there, resulting in another wave of unemployment," Chen said.

Electronics account for about one-third of the nation's manufacturing output and more than half of exports.

The TSU plans to ask Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Minister of Economic Affairs Christine Tsung (宗才怡) to report on the issue to the TSU tomorrow.

"Investment in eight-inch fabs in China will cause Taiwan to lose its competitive edge in the industry and will cause the unemployment rate to rise," said TSU lawmaker Chen Chien-ming (陳建銘) yesterday.

Saturday's demonstration will begin at 1pm at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and end at the Control Yuan.

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