TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Wednesday (Jan. 27) stated that it "welcomes" all efforts to increase the country's supply of vaccines for the Wuhan coronavirus, including trading TSMC semiconductors for shots.
On Sunday (Jan. 24), Reuters reported that German Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier had written a letter to his Taiwanese counterpart, Wang Mei-hua (王美花), requesting her help increasing the supply of TSMC semiconductors for German automakers. That same day, Nikkei reported that Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) is asking TSMC to help alleviate the shortage of automotive-related chips for manufacturers in the U.S., Japan, and Europe.
Gordon Sun (孫明德), director of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research's (TIER) Economic Forecasting Center, was cited by CNA on Monday (Jan. 25) as saying that amid a shortage of chips abroad, countries are seeking to negotiate with the Taiwanese government to coordinate on TSMC's supply. However, he pointed out that the company delivers its chips based on the order in which they were placed.
Sun said that if the government wants to act as an intermediary, "It should raise the significance of the whole thing." He then asserted that chips could be turned into a commodity to barter for vaccines: "For example, 'chips for vaccines' is no longer just a commercial activity. It is an act of reciprocity between countries."
Sun noted that the recent outbreak in Taoyuan has heated up and that some medical staff have been confirmed with COVID-19. He argued that if Taiwan can exchange chips for vaccines (晶片換疫苗), "medical staff can continue to protect Taiwan and enable the industrial sector to produce with peace of mind. This may be a direction that the Taiwanese government can consider."
During a press conference on Wednesday (Jan. 27), a reporter asked CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) if the center was considering other means to increase the quantity of vaccines ordered from overseas, such as trading chips for vaccines. Chen responded that the CECC is actively contacting all the major manufacturers and that while some contracts are being processed, "we definitely welcome all methods to purchase more."