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Biden opens Asia trip with tech on agenda

China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-21 11:59
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US President Joe Biden speaks with South Korean President Yoon Suk-youl during a press conference after visiting the Samsung Electronic Pyeongtaek Campus in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, May 20, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea-US President Joe Biden on Friday opened his Asia trip by highlighting the computer chip shortage that has bedeviled the world economy, touring a Samsung chip plant that will serve as model for a $17 billion semiconductor factory the company plans to open in Texas.

The Samsung visit was a nod to one of Biden's key domestic priorities: Increasing the supply of computer chips. A semiconductor shortage last year hurt the availability of autos, kitchen appliances and other goods, causing higher inflation worldwide and crippling Biden's public approval among voters in the United States.

Biden was expected to grapple with a multitude of foreign policy issues during a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan, but he also crafted an itinerary which is clearly tending to the concerns of his home audience as well. The president noted that the Texas plant would add 3,000 jobs and the construction would include union labor.

"These little chips," Biden said in remarks at the plant, "are the key to propelling us into the next era of humanity's technological development".

Greeting Biden at the plant in South Korea was the country's new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, and Samsung Electronics Vice-Chairman Lee Jae-yong.

Yoon said in a speech before Biden spoke that he hopes the countries' partnership evolves into an "economic and security alliance based on cooperation in advanced technology and supply chains".

Unique nature

The chip plant showed the unique nature of manufacturing as visitors were required to don laboratory coats and blue booties to help keep the facility clean. Biden and Yoon, who did not wear 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 Samsung plant floor. The California-based company is a major supplier to Samsung's semiconductor operations. After a worker named Peter explained the ins and outs of the machinery, Biden quipped,"Don't forget to vote", when he returns home to the US.

Part of the computer chip shortage is the result of strong demand as much of the world emerged from the coronavirus pandemic. But coronavirus outbreaks and other challenges also caused the closure of semiconductor plants. US government officials have estimated that chip production will not be at the levels they would like until early 2023.

Global computer chip sales totaled $151.7 billion during the first three months of this year, a 23 percent jump from the same period in 2021, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.

More than 75 percent of global chip production comes from Asia. That's a possible vulnerability the US hopes to protect against through more domestic production and $52 billion worth of government investment in the sector through a bill being negotiated in Congress.

Agencies Via Xinhua

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