By Jeanny Kao and Ben Blanchard
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan would be “happy” to see its chip firms invest in the European Union but deeper ties with the bloc akin to Taipei’s relations with Washington could help pave the way for that, a senior Taiwanese official told Reuters.
The EU has been courting Taiwan, a major semiconductor producer, as one of the “like-minded” partners it would like to work with under the European Chips Act unveiled in February, as it tries to deal with a persistent global chip shortage.
While Taiwan and the EU held-high level trade talks last month, less than a week after that meeting Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) said it had no concrete plans for factories in Europe, having flagged a year ago that it was in the early stages of reviewing a potential expansion into Germany.
Taiwan Deputy Economy Minister Chen Chern-chyi, whose portfolio covers economic relations with Europe, said late Monday that while he could not speak on behalf of chip companies, he noted they have not said they are not going to Europe.
“But the government’s position is that we are happy to see our companies having a global footprint, including the United States and Europe, who are both our like-minded partners. On a policy level we are of course very happy to see them deploying globally, and would be glad to see it happen,” he said.
In the face of sustained Chinese political and military pressure designed to force Taiwan to accept China’s sovereignty claims, Taipei has been keen to bolster ties with other democracies even in the absence of formal diplomatic relations.
In one wrinkle for EU ambitions, Taiwan’s GlobalWafers Co Ltd failed in February in a 4.35 billion euro ($4.36 billion) takeover attempt of German chip supplier Siltronic.
Chen said he was not aware the ministry, which has to approve large-scale oversees investments, had received any new applications for EU chip projects so far this year.
Taiwan, he added, wanted to have the kind of close, institutionalised trade, technology and economic dialogue ties with the EU that they have with the United States, where TSMC is building a $12 billion factory and GlobalWafers a $5 billion plant.
“Our interactions with the United States have been rather more, communication is closer. We also hope to develop the same close relationship with the EU,” Chen said.
“If it’s like this, it would be very helpful for our companies for their attention towards and knowledge of Europe.”
Taiwan has also been pushing for a bilateral investment agreement with the EU, though there has been no progress.
Chen said while that remains a policy goal, they were not ruling out deals that are currently “more achievable”.
“We even hope to have a free trade agreement with the EU, which would be the best. The EU has lots of FTAs with other countries, and if the EU is willing, we are too.”
($1 = 0.9987 euros)
(Reporting by Jeanny Kao and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates)