WASHINGTON – The White House sent a letter to the Taiwanese government on February 17 seeking their help in solving the global shortage of computer chips that has wreaked havoc in the auto industry. The letter said the « future is bright » for US-Taiwan relations amid threats from China.
President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, addressed the letter to Taiwan’s Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua, thanking him for working with Taiwanese chipmakers to alleviate the global deficit.
« US auto companies continue to be very concerned about the impact of the shortage of auto chips on production lines this year, » the letter obtained by The Epoch Times reads.
The pandemic has skyrocketed demand for consumer electronics products, leading to a shortage of semiconductor chips. Global automakers have been particularly hard hit by this supply shock; General Motors and Ford have temporarily closed some of their plants in response. The shortfall has also affected many global car brands, including Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan.
The semiconductor crisis has increased Taiwan’s strategic importance to Western governments. American, European and Japanese automakers have been pressuring their governments to step in and engage with Taiwanese officials to address the shortage.
Taiwan is a crucial hub for the global semiconductor supply chain. Its semiconductor sector is the second largest in the world by revenue after the United States.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chip maker, and other Taiwanese companies have already increased production of vital chips to solve the problem.
« We recognize the challenge of short-term limitations in automotive chip manufacturing linked to lead times for specific designs, » Deese said in his letter. « We appreciate your efforts to ensure a level playing field for American businesses looking for available supply deliveries. »
Wang told reporters that he received the letter from the White House on February 19.
« Looking ahead, manufacturers are doing what they should » to address the problem, he said. « We are helping as much as we can. »
German Finance Minister Peter Altmaier also wrote a letter to Wang asking for his help, according to ..
The United States views Taiwan as a strategic partner in Asia, and the Biden administration seeks to strengthen long-term cooperation with the autonomous island, according to the letter.
« We see significant potential for a broader medium and long-term commitment to improve supply chain resilience for the semiconductor industry, » the letter said.
In May 2020, TSMC announced that it would build the world’s most advanced 5-nanometer chip manufacturing facility in Arizona. The deal, experts say, has the potential to fundamentally reorient Taiwan’s high-tech supply chain away from China and toward the United States.
« We also look forward to working closely with you on the broader economic relationship between the United States and Taiwan, including facilitating trade between us, » the letter read. « The future is bright for economic cooperation between the United States and Taiwan. »
The United States does not have a formal diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, but maintains unofficial ties with the autonomous island under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. In recent years, there has been a bipartisan push for the establishment of a bilateral agreement on free trade with Taiwan.
Washington has long been cautious in dealing with Taipei for fear of provoking the Beijing regime, which views the democratic island as part of Chinese territory.
However, the nature of relations between the United States and Taiwan has changed dramatically in the past year. Under Trump’s presidency, Washington significantly expanded military aid to Taiwan.
The Trump administration in its final weeks also lifted restrictions on contact with Taiwanese diplomats and officials, marking an important step in deepening ties with the island.
Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States attended Biden’s inauguration last month. It was the first time that Taiwan was officially invited to a presidential oath since 1979, when the United States government shifted diplomatic recognition to Beijing. He also noted the continued growing support for Taipei in the post-Trump era, despite constant threats of invasion from Beijing.
In recent months, Beijing has repeatedly carried out military operations near Taiwan to express its frustration at the shift in US foreign policy towards Taiwan.
While the Biden administration adopted a positive tone in the letter, it is unclear whether US support for Taiwan will remain strong in the coming months. The new administration may reverse some of Trump’s policies on Taiwan, experts say, if Biden and his officials seek to reduce tensions with China.
« I think it’s too early to really understand the entirety of the Biden administration’s China policy at the moment, » Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, told The Epoch Times.
« We really haven’t seen what each department’s China policy will look like and how they interweave it. »