SEMI wins semiconductor etch equipment export control ruling

SEMI, the global trade organization representing the nano- and micro-electronic manufacturing supply chains, lauds the significant breakthrough in U.S. export restrictions for semiconductor equipment producers. This week, after a four-month investigation, the U.S. Department of Commerce declared the export controls on certain etch equipment and technology ineffective, thereby removing a cumbersome and onerous impediment to efficient trade.

With this positive ruling, SEMI (www.semi.org) will now work with U.S. officials to decontrol etch equipment and technology at the international level, pushing for removal from the multilateral export control regime known as the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) — the governing body consisting of 41 participating states, including the U.S.  While pushing for WA removal, SEMI will also work in the interim to attain a license exception for these products in order to immediately grant U.S. companies this free export status.

“SEMI stands for free trade and open markets to support the development and success of the global semiconductor manufacturing industry supply chain,” said Denny McGuirk, president and CEO of SEMI. “We applaud the decontrol of semiconductor etch equipment as a rational response to current technology, trade, and commercial realities. This is a win for both equipment makers and their customers operating in the global market.”

On July 16, following years of discussion and negotiations, SEMI submitted a formal petition for the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to examine the foreign availably of anisotropic plasma dry etching equipment controlled for national security reasons under Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) 3B001.c on the Commerce Control List. Having identified an indigenous Chinese manufacturing capability, SEMI supplied BIS with in-depth analysis in order to assist in their determination. The examination, known as a Foreign Availability Assessment (FAA), was formally initiated by BIS on September 8 as the first of its kind in more than 20 years.

The FAA culminated in today’s determination, which validates the U.S. support for the decontrol of etch products. Prior to this, U.S. companies faced an uneven playing field in the market, competing with foreign companies that operate without the burdensome regulations and processes imposed by the U.S. Commerce Department.  The recognition of comparable products overseas negates the national security constraints that have vexed U.S. industry for many years.

SEMI collaborated with an international group of public policy and trade professionals from member companies in this effort, including Chinese etch equipment maker AMEC, whose cooperation helped validate the foreign availability assertion.

“The Commerce Department’s decision to remove export control restrictions for etch equipment is a big victory for the U.S. semiconductor equipment sector and our customers around the world,” said Randhir Thakur, executive vice president and general manager of the Silicon Systems Group at Applied Materials. “Recognizing the availability of these tools will help fuel growth and promote the success of the global industry supply chain.”

For more information, you may review the Commerce Department’s notice in the U.S. Federal Register at:  https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/02/09/2015-02681/foreign-availability-determination-anisotropic-plasma-dry-etching-equipment

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