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Taiwan in talks with Germany over chips, vaccines

Germany wants chips for its automotive industry, while Taiwan seeks COVID vaccine

Economic Minister Wang Mei-hua.

Economic Minister Wang Mei-hua. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan is calling on Germany to help it procure COVID-19 vaccines after the German government turned to Taiwan for automotive chips.

Due to a global shortage, government officials in the U.S., Germany, and Japan have reached out to Taiwanese authorities in an attempt to urge chipmakers to increase production.

Taiwan’s Economic Minister Wang Mei-hua (王美花) confirmed having a meeting with the German representative to Taiwan, Thomas Prinz, on Thursday (Jan. 28) about automotive chips and COVID vaccines. Wang said Taiwan was asking for assistance in buying vaccines and that Prinz had said he would pass this on to the German government.

The prospect of providing chips in exchange for vaccines was raised by the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research. This followed Germany’s Economic Minister Peter Altmaier openly urging Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to increase its production of automotive chips.

Wang said she had received a letter from Altmaier on Wednesday (Jan. 27) and that she intends to respond after the government and chip foundries have reached a conclusion following talks. Reports said Taiwan's chipmakers, including TSMC and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) have agreed to prioritize automotive chips.

As countries around the world have begun vaccinating their citizens, Taiwan's efforts to secure vaccines seem to have stalled. Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said he was hopeful the country would get its first batch of vaccines in March.

However, in an interview Thursday, he declined to provide any updates on vaccine procurement, saying only that the government would keep the public posted.