HSINCHU, Taiwan -In their second victory over Micron Technology Inc. in seven months, Taiwan's chip makers welcomed a U.S. International Trade Commission decision last week that determined the island's SRAM imports to the United States did not harm the U.S. IC industry.
The government commission ruled that U.S. companies were "not materially injured or threatened with material injury by reason of imports of [SRAM] from Taiwan."
Last November, the ITC similarly determined that the island's DRAM imports into the United States didn't threaten companies there. Both complaints were filed by Micron, Boise, Idaho.
"This [ruling] marks a historic victory for us," said Rachel Huang, director of the Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association (TSIA), which represents Taiwan's chip companies. J.H. Tseng, a spokesman for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., also applauded the ITC's move. "It will have a positive impact on Taiwan's exports to the U.S.," he said.
Provided that Micron doesn't appeal the decision, the ruling would allow the island's SRAM makers to stop paying duties on shipments to the United States and to reclaim deposits they have been required to place into an account since February 1998 in case they were found to have dumped components. The TSIA didn't have an immediate estimate of how much the deposits represented, Huang said.
Amy Kleiner, Micron's government affairs manager, said the company is unhappy with the ruling but won't consider an appeal until the ITC releases the written transcript on which it based its decision. "We were very surprised," Kleiner said. "We don't agree with the decision."
In February 1998, the U.S. Commerce Department proposed punitive tariffs as high as 113.85% on SRAM delivered by several Taiwan companies such as TSMC, Winbond Electronics, and United Microelectronics Corp.
According to analysts, the ITC ruling reflects pricing stability in the SRAM market, suggesting increasing profits for Micron and others in the United States. SRAM prices have jumped to around $6 each thanks to rising demand, compared with $3.30 in January 1999, they said.
Taiwan owns a tiny share of the SRAM market, Huang said, slipping from a high of 2% in 1996.
Still, observers said the island's rapidly growing chip industry has a history of adding new capacity during times of oversupply, and suggested that Micron is looking to guard against the possibility that chips could be dumped during the next down cycle. "This is a preventative measure," Kleiner said.
The ITC's remand determination will be delivered to the Court of International Trade by June 26.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that duties held in escrow will be returned to Taiwan's SRAM makers. The fees collected will not be returned unless Miron declines to appeal the ITC decision or an appeal of the ruling is unsuccessful.