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10 Apr 2023

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Asia Provides 83% of Semiconductor Imports to the United States

Malaysia remained the leading provider of semiconductors to the United States in the early part of 2023, with exports of $972 million to the US in February 2023, the latest month for which complete data is available, according to the US Census Bureau. However, that total was a drop of 26% from a year ago. Taiwan remained in second place, with $732 million, up 4% from last year.

The top two were followed by Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea, all of which gained considerable ground, with more than $1.3 billion in the month collectively, an increase of 61% over last year.

Ongoing US-China tensions and ancillary concerns about Taiwan as a supplier provide the context to these numbers. Although Taiwan should always remain one of the top suppliers, the Biden Administration itself (through the Department of Congress) has stated its concern about over-reliance on the nation. Cabinet secretary Gina Raimondo called the US dependence on Taiwan's semiconductors “untenable” last July, and that position has not changed publicly.

Mainland China is still among the Top 10 suppliers, with $225.5 million exported in February, down about 8% from a year ago.

Cambodia and India joined the Top 10 list and made the most dramatic percentage gains, going from almost nothing a year ago to more than $150 million each during the month. India appeared to have gained significantly from Apple migrating some of its iPhone manufacturing from China to India.

Asia supplies 83% of all semiconductor exports to the US, according to the Bureau. The remainder are provided by (in descending order) Mexico, Italy, Germany, Canada, Israel, Morocco, Turkey, Ireland, and 17 other nations.

On the other side of the coin, Mainland China, Malaysia, and Hong Kong remain the top destinations for semiconductor exports from the United States. Mexico, Germany, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong also remain as top destinations for exported US chips.

My own direct perception of trade among the US, China, and Taiwan came a generation ago, during a business trip to Taipei. I noticed several airlines I'd never known existed, some with traditional Chinese characters (which are used in Taiwan), others with simplified characters (which are used in China) in their logos.

I learned these were small airlines flying business travelers back and forth between Taipei and destinations on mainland China. Even then, trade was robust on these routes, as US and European airlines also flew in and out of Taipei and mainland China destinations.

This practice continues today, with 42% of Taiwan's exports going to China and Hong Kong, and 22% of its imports originating there. Both percentages are far higher than those between Taiwan and the US.

Photo from TSMC, Taiwan.

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