This week, Japan and the United States agreed to closer cooperation to strengthen energy security and semiconductor supply chains. In addition to commodity issues, the development of 2nm processes and the mass production of components were the main topics discussed.
According to the news portal NHKJapanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hagiuda Koichi visited the US to speak with Energy Secretaries Jennifer Granholm and Commerce Secretaries Gina Raimondo, as well as Trade Representative Katherine Tai and other US officials.
Semiconductor market on the agenda
One of the concerns discussed was precisely energy security, which has become extremely important since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The joint statement signed underscored the importance of liquefied natural gas produced by the US side in reducing dependence on Russian material.
The highlight, however, revolved around advances in semiconductor manufacturing. Japan appears to have a lot to offer in this partnership, with expertise in silicon wafer fabrication, photosensitive and abrasive agent fabrication for development processes and construction of some key manufacturing equipment.
Together, these efforts could be critical for countries to advance the 2nm semiconductor process — the architecture promises to increase chip performance while saving energy to maintain high performance.
It is unclear which players may be involved in this partnership, but according to the Tom’s HardwareTokyo Electron, Canon, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, IBM and Intel may be part of this collaborative agreement.
Other reasons for this collaboration
Yes, leveraging the respective technological strengths is the focus of this cooperation. But the truth is that the partnership discussed also aims to create a solid strategy in the semiconductor segment and that is safe against leaks to China.
The biggest manufacturer in the sector is TSMC, from Taiwan. The problem is that the proximity and all the geopolitical issues involving Taiwan and China make it easier for leaks and spying on Taiwanese processes to reach the Chinese government more easily. And hiding information about the Japan-US partnership from China should help the “rival” to gain more strength.
Another point is that TSMC’s foundries in the US and Japan must be limited to 10-20nm productions — 2nm production must take place at factories in Taiwan. Therefore, it makes sense for Japan and the US to strengthen relations to avoid process dependencies and production delays.
Apparently, the problems faced with dependence on Chinese components during the pandemic are causing nations to create alternative plans for greater autonomy in processes. If this succeeds, the chances of a new wave of the chip crisis in the future will be drastically reduced.