By AAMER MADHANI and JOSH BOAK
PYEONGTAEK, South Korean President Joe Biden on Friday kicked off his trip to Asia by stressing the lack of computer chips that has shaken the world economy, visiting a Samsung computer chip factory that will serve as a model for a $ 17 billion semiconductor factory dollars that the Korean electronics company plans to open. in Texas.
Samsung’s visit was one of Bidens’s top priorities in the country: increasing the supply of computer chips. A semiconductor shortage last year damaged the availability of cars, kitchen appliances and other goods, causing higher inflation worldwide and undermining Bidens’s public approval among American voters.
Biden will address a range of foreign policy issues during a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan, but he also devised an itinerary that clearly aimed to address the concerns of his local audience. The president noted that the Texas plant would add 3,000 jobs and the construction would involve union work.
These little chips, Biden said in comments to the factory, are the key to pushing us into the next era of humanity’s technological development.
The new president of the country, Yoon Suk Yeol, and the vice president of Samsung Electronics, Lee Jae-yong, greeted Biden at the factory in South Korea. Yoon is a political newcomer who became president, his first elected office, just over a week ago. He campaigned for a tougher stance against North Korea and strengthened the 70-year-old alliance with the US.
Yoon said in a speech before Biden spoke that he hopes the countries’ partnership will evolve into an economic and security alliance based on cooperation in advanced technology and supply chains.
The chip factory showed the unique nature of the production as visitors were asked to wear lab coats and blue boots to help keep the facility clean. Biden and Yoon, who were not wearing protective clothing, saw a demonstration of the machinery.
At one point during his tour, Biden received an in-depth explanation of a KLA inspection system on the floor of the Samsung factory. The California-based company is a leading supplier of Samsung semiconductor operations. After a worker named Peter explained the flaws of the machine, Biden scoffed: Remember to vote when he returns home to the United States.
Part of the shortage of computer chips is the result of strong demand as most of the world emerged from the coronavirus pandemic. But coronavirus outbreaks and other challenges also caused the closure of semiconductor plants. U.S. government officials have estimated that chip production will not be at the levels they would like by early 2023.
Global sales of computer chips totaled $ 151.7 billion during the first three months of this year, a 23% increase from the same period in 2021, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.
More than 75% of global chip production comes from Asia. This is a potential vulnerability that the US hopes to protect through more domestic production and $ 52 billion in government investment in the sector through a bill being negotiated in Congress.
The risk of Chinese aggression against Taiwan could disrupt the flow of high-end computer chips needed in the US for military equipment as well as consumer goods. Similarly, hermetic North Korea has tested ballistic missiles in the midst of a coronavirus explosion, a potential threat to South Korea’s manufacturing sector if the border escalates.
In terms of chip production, China leads the global package with a share of 24%, followed by Taiwan (21%), South Korea (19%) and Japan (13%). Only 10% of chips are manufactured in the US, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.
Samsung announced the plant in Taylor, Texas in November 2021. It hopes to start operating in the second half of 2024. The South Korean electronics giant chose the site based on a number of factors, including government incentives and the readiness and stability of local infrastructure. .
The White House said in a data sheet released Friday that semiconductor companies have announced nearly $ 80 billion in U.S. investment by 2025. That amount includes $ 20 billion for the Intels plant outside Columbus, Ohio, up to $ 30 billion from Texas Instruments, a $ 1 trillion expansion from Wolfspeed to North Carolina and investments by Global Foundries and SK Group.
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