TSMC has put out a statement, backed up by the Taiwanese government, emphasizing that it would leak no sensitive data in complying with a US request for greater transparency in the supply chain. The company’s statement today emphasized its willingness to protect its customers, but did not say to what degree it would comply with the US request.
“We definitely will not leak our company’s sensitive information, especially that related to customers,” TSMC lawyer Sylvia Fang said in the company’s provided statement, according to Reuters. “If this is to resolve supply chain issues, we will see how best we can do to help them. We have done so many things. For the part of auto chips, we’ve tried to increase output and prioritize auto chips to a certain degree.”
Taiwan is backing up one of its largest companies, and stated roughly a week ago that it would respect US rules and laws, but that it would also help its companies if any of them received an unreasonable request from the United States.
This kind of messaging might sound combative, but it may be necessary saber-rattling. TSMC is in a very tricky position. Many of its largest and most important customers are American companies, including Apple and Nvidia. At the same time, however, TSMC cannot afford to be painted as a lackey of American interests. Mainland China has its own interests in both TSMC and Taiwan, and the company is in an uncomfortable position, geopolitically speaking.
Read between the lines, and both TSMC and the Taiwanese government have loudly pledged to fight back against both unreasonable requests and potential information leaks while stopping short of declaring their total non-compliance. All of this is playing out after the Biden Administration requested that companies voluntarily turn over more data on their supply chains to help the United States optimize its supply lines and improve chip access. The US government and the governments of multiple other Western nations have attempted to intervene on behalf of various auto manufacturers to help remedy the ongoing chip shortage that is hurting many industries, including the auto industry. TSMC has responded by repeatedly emphasizing the degree to which it has already attempted to meet these needs.
The company’s response seems a bit frustrated, but that may reflect the realities of semiconductor manufacturing. It takes time to bring new capacity online, and it takes time to shift resources from one foundry to another. The semiconductor industry has been producing at full speed for a solid year now, and may be collectively tired of explaining to most of the planet that no, there’s really no way they can go faster right now.
There’s a bit — a tiny bit — of sound and fury playing out over these requests, but until the US government makes compliance mandatory, it’s likely all for show. No one is trying to strong-arm TSMC into revealing client information, at least not at this stage, and TSMC isn’t swearing it won’t work with the US government to better understand the global supply chain.
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