SEMI opposes trade tariffs against China, cites damaging impact to chip industry in U.S. government testimony

By Jay Chittooran

Jonathan Davis 3Testifying before a U.S. interagency panel weighing trade tariffs against China, a representative from the semiconductor manufacturing industry yesterday called for the removal of more than 100 products from the list of proposed tariffs, stressing that an escalation of the U.S.-Sino dispute could trigger a full-blown trade war and hasten deep, unintended damage including higher consumer prices, an expanded U.S. trade deficit, and a slowdown in U.S. economic growth.

Jonathan Davis, global vice president of industry advocacy at SEMI, the global association representing the electronics manufacturing supply chain, threw the industry’s weight behind protections for valuable intellectual property. But Davis argued that “if implemented as proposed, these tariffs will potentially cost tens of millions annually in additional taxes and lost revenue owing to reduced exports, threaten thousands of high-paying U.S. jobs, and not solve U.S. concerns with China.” Davis said the undue harm will ultimately undercut the ability of U.S. chipmakers to sell overseas, stifling innovation and curbing U.S. technological leadership.

In testimony at the hearing before the government panel that included representatives from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Departments of Treasury, Commerce, State and Defense, and the Council of Economic Advisers, Davis explained that more than 100 lines – products defined for the purpose of setting import duties – of the proposed tariffs would hamstring the semiconductor supply chain. The tariff lines include fundamental components of the semiconductor manufacturing process that are oxygen for the chip industry. As part of his testimony, Davis also submitted comments on the impact of the tariffs.

Charles Gray, general counsel at Teradyne, who also testified at the hearing, explained that the tariffs will threaten growth while penalizing U.S. companies with supply chains that touch China. Gray and Davis were among more than 100 industry leaders who provided more than 3,000 comments in the May 15-17 hearing to evaluate the impact and efficacy of the proposed tariffs.

The hearing followed the Trump administration’s heated, longstanding criticism of China for what it considers unfair trade practices, focusing specifically on intellectual property violations. In recent months, the administration has begun implementing trade actions against China that will increase tariffs, restrict cross-border investment, and introduce significant uncertainty for U.S. businesses.

The Section 301 investigation that determined China’s forced transfer of technology and intellectual property discriminated against U.S. firms prompted a proposed 25 percent tariff on $50 billion in U.S. imports from China – a punitive measure that would squarely hit the semiconductor manufacturing industry.

SEMI continues to educate policymakers on the deep damage tariffs would exact on the long-term health of the semiconductor industry and the critical importance of balanced trade to the future of the semiconductor industry.

For more information on trade or how to participate in SEMI’s public policy program, please contact Jay Chittooran, SEMI public policy manager, at jchittooran@semi.org.

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