Fri, Mar 29, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Decision on chips may come today

FAB PLAN The Cabinet will say either today or Sunday whether it will allow Taiwanese firms to set up eight-inch wafer plants across the Strait

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Yu Shyi-kun, right, shakes hands with TSMC Chairman Morris Chang yesterday before discussing eight-inch wafer investment in China.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Premier Yu Shyi-kun may announce today whether the government will lift its ban on eight-inch wafer investment in China.

Yu yesterday met with Morris Chang (張忠謀), chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電), to discuss the government's policy on chip investment across the Strait.

Still, Yu was tight-lipped about the government's stance, saying a final decision will be made either today or Sunday.

"The Cabinet's deadline for making public its final decision remains unchanged, that is, in two to three days," Yu said.

But many expect today will be the big day. If it is, the announcement will likely come late in the evening, as the premier is expected to be bogged down in the legislature for most of the day for interpellation.

The announcement could be put off until Sunday if the interpellation session drags on too long.

Another reason for delaying the announcement is that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is scheduled to make public plans to streamline the Cabinet tomorrow.

Chang, in his 40-minute meeting with Yu yesterday, reaffirmed TSMC's commitment to Taiwan.

The TSMC chairman reiterated a pledge made in October to invest NT$700 billion in the construction of six 12-inch foundries in Taiwan in the coming years. Of that amount, the company has scheduled NT$90 billion in outlays for this year.

"It's not only a plan but also a promise," Chang said.

"As long as the local investment environment doesn't deteriorate and the local technological industry continues to maintain a competitive edge, there's no reason for us not to keep our roots in Taiwan."

TSMC has one eight-inch fab in Tainan. A 12-inch fab there is expected to go online by the end of this year, and TSMC has plans for four more in Tainan.

In addition, TSMC has nine eight-inch fabs and one 12-inch wafer foundry in Hsinchu. The company plans to build one more 12-inch plant in the northern city.

Chang said that, although it's a little late to lift the ban on eight-inch wafer investment in China, he'll support the government's final decision 100 percent, no matter what the outcome.

"Under the principle of `effective management,' the government should've lifted the ban two years ago, if you ask me," he said. "Unfortunately, it didn't happen."

Asked whether he was worried about trade secrets being leaked to China after the ban is lifted, Chang said it was easy to obtain information in a world of advanced technology.

"If anyone is really interested in obtaining our high-tech know-how at all, the person can do so anywhere in the world, not just in China," he said.

The TSMC chairman also predicted that it would take China at least 20 years to grab 20 percent of the world's semiconductor manufacturing market.

"Although China's semiconductor industry is growing fast, it may take time to catch up," he said.

In addition to TSMC, United Microelectronics Corp (聯電) also wants to set up eight-inch plants in China. The two companies are the world's largest and second-largest contract chipmakers.

Opponents of the measure, led by the TSU, say Taiwan would lose its competitiveness if eight-inch fabs migrate across the Strait.

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