Biden tours Samsung fab, talks chip cooperation with South Korea

Factory is a model for one the company has planned in Texas


US president Joe Biden kicked off his first Asian tour since taking office in South Korea, where he visited a Samsung semiconductor fab said to be the model for the company's planned plant in Taylor, Texas.

While speaking at the Samsung Electronics Pyeongtaek Campus, Biden said the region will be a key part of the next several decades – a reason "to invest in one another to deepen our business ties.". 

Much of the talk on Biden's five-day trip to South Korea and Japan will center around broader deepening of economic and business ties. In Pyeongtaek, however, the emphasis was on semiconductor cooperation. While touring the plant with recently elected South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol, Biden noted "these little chips are the key to propelling us into the next era of humanity's technological development."

Samsung announced its plans for the Taylor semiconductor plant in late 2021, and in January Taylor City Council rezoned 1,268 acres for the planned 6 million square foot (557,418 square meter) facility. Construction is set to begin this year, with plans for the facility to open in 2024.

According to the White House, the new Samsung plant will create 3,000 "good paying" jobs in Taylor. The Biden administration also claimed that semiconductor manufacturers have announced investments totaling nearly $80 billion in the US since 2021, including Intel's $20 billion fab in Columbus, Ohio

The Biden administration inherited a messy semiconductor market, to put it lightly. Shortages continue as projected end dates recede toward the horizon, and tensions between China and Taiwan, the world's leading semiconductor-producing nation, aren't making the situation any easier. 

Still, perhaps because of the conflicts, the semiconductor market has been booming, with forecasts pointing to $676 billion in sales in 2022, barring further global instability.

By bringing semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States, the Biden administration hopes to stabilize US supplies and improve global semiconductor supply chain resilience, the White House said. 

The core of the administration's efforts to bring semiconductor manufacturing back home sits with the CHIPS Act, which would allocate $52 billion to further incentivize US chip fabrication.

While that Act was passed over a year ago, the government has yet to allocate funds to it, which requires the passage of the reconciled versions of the House and Senate's innovation bills. The two chambers only recently began the process.

Despite all that effort, some still think Uncle Sam's fabrication ambitions are misplaced, for example TSMC founder Morris Chang, who described the plans as a "wasteful, expensive exercise in futility." ®

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