The Trump administration is reportedly in talks with major processor manufacturers to build factories in the US, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. While the Journal’s sources reference various “talks” between the administration and manufacturers, Intel reportedly has a more specific plan to run a plant that manufactures chips “securely” — playing on US fears of reliance on processor plants based overseas.
Trump’s record on US manufacturing is abysmal, so expecting a crop of new US processor foundries to pop up is a risky bet. Though he has boasted of achievements in the tech sector, many of these have been total whoppers, including a repeated lie about a “new” Apple factory in Texas. But the Journal’s report suggests things might be more serious than a photo-op with the president. TSMC, which makes Apple’s A-series chips, has reportedly been talking to Apple and critical government agencies about building a factory in the US. And, according to the Journal, Intel is eager to participate. “We’re very serious about this,” Intel VP Greg Slater told WSJ.
Without more detail about these talks and plans, it’s reasonable to assume chipmakers are simply responding to the potentially-lucrative business of defense contracts. As the Journal points out, Intel CEO Bob Swan sent a letter to the Department of Defense on April 28th saying that “it is in the best interest of the United States and of Intel” to explore operating a commercial chip foundry in the US.
US skepticism about the benefits of globalization may be riding high thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but moving tech manufacturing to the US isn’t as simple as having a change of heart; existing supply chain efficiencies from more than a decade of investment in overseas manufacturing can’t be easily reversed. Even if these talks turn into something real, don’t expect Apple’s chips to be made in the US any time soon.