SAN JOSE, Calif. The United States is making steady progress to simplify the export-control process for the U.S. IC-equipment industry in China, although there is still “room for improvement” in the arena, according an official from the Bush administration.
For years, U.S.-based semiconductor equipment makers have claimed that they are at a disadvantage against their foreign rivals in selling fab tools to China due to outdated and esoteric export control laws. U.S.-based fab-tool vendors also claim that the licensing process is too slow and cumbersome.
China is indeed a double-edge sword for U.S. policy makers. On one hand, China presents a major commercial opportunity for businesses. On the other hand, there are some national security issues China poses as a military and intellectual-property (IP) risk, according to analysts.
U.S. export control policies must reflect the realities in China, said David McCormick, under secretary for the Bureau of Industry & Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce, during a presentation at the Taiwan + China Semiconductor Outlook conference here on Thursday (Jan. 12).
“There are certain activities we are trying to discourage [in China],” McCormick said. “At the other end of the scale, there are encouraging commercial opportunities. Our long-term policy is a capability that reflects [both trends] going forward.”
Overall, U.S. export control policies are a work in progress. “There is room for improvement,” he said.
In terms of the licensing procedures for U.S. fab-tool makers, however, he insisted that the U.S. government is making “very favorable” progress in terms of reducing the cycle times and red tape.
On the other hand, the export control regulations, which were devised some 15 years ago, are simply outdated. “Fifteen years ago is a lifetime in this industry,” he said. “It’s fair to saying that there is a lag.”