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US bid to boost chipmaking to be expensive and wasteful, says TSMC founder Morris Chang

The US' bid to increase onshore chip production would be futile, as it would not be globally competitive and able to compete with TSMC, according to Morris Chang, founder of Taiwan-based pure-play foundry.

Chang made the remarks during a podcast interview by hosts from Washington-based think tanks Brookings Institution and Center for Strategic and International Studies. The episode revolves around the question "Can Semiconductor Manufacturing Return to the US?"

In the 1950s through early 1970s, the US, like Taiwan now, had a pool of manufacturing talent, but many later migrated to higher-paying jobs, such as those in IC design or finance sector, Chang said.

The lack of manufacturing talent may not be a bad thing for the US in general, but is bad for doing semiconductor manufacturing in the US, he said, when asked to comment on the country's limitations in trying to ramp up chip production.

TSMC has a manufacturing plant in Oregon for 25 years, but the same products made in Oregon are 50% more expensive than those made in Taiwan, Chang said, admitting that they were "naive" initially for assuming the cost differences could be narrowed.

Regarding the US' recent efforts to increase manufacturing capacity, Chang said "it will be a very expensive exercise in futility."

There will be high unit cost increases, and the US will not be competitive in the global market when it is to compete with factories like TSMC, he explained.

The US has a very good position in semiconductor technology as it has "the best design capability in the world," while TSMC has "none," he said.

There are some IC design houses in Taiwan, but they are not as advanced as US design companies, he added.

Regarding some people's claim that Taiwan is not safe, Chang said it is a questionable topic.

"If there is a war in Taiwan Strait, then I think the United States will have more than chips to worry about," he said.

"Now if there is no war, then I think the efforts to increase onshore manufacturing of semiconductors is a wasteful and expensive exercise in futility," Chang said.