Last week, more than a dozen senior semiconductor executives traveled to Washington, DC for the first-ever Fall Washington Forum. The SEMI Washington Forum, a venue for SEMI members to educate lawmakers about the industry, focused on action against China, both in the form of tariffs and export controls.
Our industry is global, and companies rely heavily on trade. In 2017, more than 90 percent of equipment made in the United States was exported. Because of this dynamic, the United States holds a nearly $9 billion trade surplus in this industry. SEMI is supportive of trade policies that open foreign markets.
In the meetings, the executives expressed deep concern that the tariffs would inflict deep damage to the U.S. economy, including to SEMI members. Estimates suggest that the Sec. 301 tariffs (and the Chinese retaliatory tariffs) will cost semiconductor companies more than $700 million annually, dramatically increasing the cost of doing business. These tariffs also threaten U.S. technological leadership. The United States has led innovation for decades. However, by pursuing policies that limit market access opportunities, company-led R&D and innovation will slow, which, in turn, will curb further export potential.
SEMI companies also stressed that because of the blunt application of these tariffs, this action will actually hurt U.S. companies as much as it hurts their Chinese competitors. Indeed, about 40 percent of imports in our sector from China are from U.S. or other non-Chinese companies. Further, the semiconductor industry relies on a vast network of supply chains, which have been built and qualified over the course of years. A fundamental revamp of supply chains is simply not feasible. This would be expensive, time-consuming, and resource-intensive.
With a growing number of policy issues that are central to and could have significant impact for semiconductor companies, SEMI hosted its first ever Fall Washington Forum for members of its North American Advisory Board (NAAB). SEMI also invited several other industry executives. In total, 14 senior industry executives, including representatives from equipment manufacturers, component suppliers, and materials providers, attended the Fall Forum.
During the two days of meetings, SEMI met with several senior Administration officials to better the policies being enacted and considered as well as encourage all parties to not impose barriers to commerce, which would severely impact the semiconductor industry. SEMI also met with Members of Congress and their staffs on this issue.
All told, attendees at the Fall Forum had more than 15 meetings with policymakers, reflecting the great impact of public policy on SEMI members companies. At a time when the stakes for the industry could not be higher, direct engagement with lawmakers is critical. The Washington Forum offers an incredible opportunity for members to better understand the impact of key public policy issues and gain firsthand experience in influencing policy and helping lawmakers better understand the industry.
If you are interested in learning more about the SEMI Washington Forum or SEMI’s public policy program, please contact Jay Chittooran by email at [email protected].