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US senators raise 'serious questions' about $12B TSMC facility

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Senate Democrats on Tuesday called on President Donald Trump to answer "serious questions" about a planned Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. chip plant, with the group seeking transparency on potential national security and financial issues.

In a letter to Trump administration Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jack Reed (D-RI) pushed the administration for clarity concerning TSMC's recently announced plans to build a $12 billion manufacturing plant in Arizona, reports Reuters.

Citing possible national security concerns — TSMC is a supplier to U.S. black-listed Huawei — and undisclosed subsidies, the senators asked the government to consider "companies that already have built a significant presence in the U.S.," the report said. Those firms include Micron, GlobalFoundries and Cree.

"We have serious questions as to how this project takes into consideration national security requirements and how it aligns with a broader strategy for building a diverse U.S. semiconductor manufacturing supply chain," the lawmakers wrote. "We ask that you cease any such negotiations or discussions until you have briefed the relevant authorization and appropriations committees with your plans, including any commitments you have made to funding, tax breaks, licensures, or other incentives."

Earlier in the letter, all three signatories said they "strongly support" efforts by Trump's cadre to bring semiconductor manufacturing jobs into the country.

Last week, TSMC confirmed plans to build a $12 billion facility in Arizona, with a three-year construction period slated to begin in 2021.

In a statement, the company said it is investing in the U.S. manufacturing hub to support customers and partners, as well as opening the door to "more opportunities to attract global talents."

TSMC is a longtime Apple partner responsible for fabricating the tech giant's A-series processors. The chipmaker is key to Apple's future hardware plans, which are thought to include integration of 5nm system-on-ship designs for an upcoming "iPhone 12" and rumored ARM-based Mac computers.