SAN JOSE, Calif. – The semiconductor industry’s trade group released its policy agenda for 2017 as the industry reported record sales for last year. Some of the policies are likely to clash with priorities of the Trump Administration, which has yet to state plans or make appointments specific to the tech sector.
The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) released an eight-point policy plan calling for lower taxes and expanded investments in chip-related research in universities and federal agencies. It also called for “balanced reforms to reduce abusive patent litigation and increased protection of trade secrets” and tougher enforcement to protect chip makers from counterfeiting.
Some measures in the plan may put the industry into conflict with President Trump’s stated views.
The SIA called for “robust international trade.” It has supported free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership that President Trump recently abandoned with an executive order. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly said he would renegotiate all trade deals, and since the election has come down hard on U.S. companies manufacturing overseas, a widespread practice in semiconductors and electronics generally.
The trade group also supported an early January report recommending a tougher stance against China for heavy government funding of its semiconductor sector. The report, issued under the Obama Administration, was taken offline by the incoming Trump Administration along with all references to the President’s science and technology advisory group and the White House Office of Science and Technology.
An SIA spokesman said it is not unusual for an incoming administration to rebuild the White House Web pages. Shortly after the November election, Trump organized a meeting of a dozen tech executives including the chief executives of Intel and Apple. He also created a business advisory group that includes chief executives of GE and Tesla, however he has yet to create an organization to address science and technology policies.
The SIA also called for “policies that attract and retain high-skilled [STEM] workers.” Traditionally it has favored raising or lifting caps on the H-1B program, specifically.
Last week, Trump took the first steps toward enacting the tough stance on immigration he took on the campaign trail. He signed executive orders temporarily banning immigration of refugees from Syria and seven other predominantly Muslim countries and calling for the start of a wall on the U.S-Mexico border. He also signaled he will review the H-1B program.
The policies come as global semiconductor sales hit $338.9 billion last year, up 1.1% from 2015 and an historic high. Fourth quarter sales reached $93.0 billion, up 12.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015 according to numbers compiled by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics group.
The modest increase over the 2015 total represented a significant comeback for the chip industry after most market watchers—including the SIA—;had predicted that sales would decline for the year.
Logic was the largest segment at $91.5 billion, 27 percent of the total, followed by memory at $76.8 billion. Sensors and actuators made up the fastest growing segment, increasing 22.7 percent. Geographically China was the largest growth market up 9.2 percent followed by Japan at 3.8 percent) with all other markets down from -1.7 to 4.7 percent).
Looking ahead, analysts expect 2017 will be return to historic trends with growth at about five percent. “We expect modest growth to continue in 2017 and beyond,” said John Neuffer, chief executive of the SIA in a statement.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times