Vice President Harris is looking for computer chip partners at meetings in Japan

Chris Megerian and Yuri Kageyama – Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Armed with a new law that increases U.S. support for computer chip manufacturing, Vice President Kamala Harris said the administration is seeking new investments and partnerships as she sat down with Japanese tech executives Wednesday.

The morning meeting, her last full day in Tokyo, reflects the administration’s focus on ramping up semiconductor production and expanding the supply chain for critical materials.

The economy’s vulnerability to disruptions in the flow of computer chips became apparent during the pandemic, when shortages helped drive up costs and halt the assembly of cars and other products.

“Citizens and residents of our countries rely on products, sometimes without even realizing how dependent these products are on semiconductor chips,” Harris said during a meeting at the US ambassador’s residence.

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While China invests in its own computer chips, the US is trying to increase domestic semiconductor production while working to strengthen its technology ties with South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

Harris said the US understands that “no one country can meet the needs of the whole world” and “it’s important that we and our allies cooperate and coordinate in a way that we grow and that we operate in a very practical environment. level”.

Legislation signed by President Joe Biden, known as the CHIPS and Science Act, includes $52 billion in grants and incentives for semiconductor companies, as well as a 25% tax credit if they invest in U.S. facilities. There is also about $200 billion over the next decade to support research programs.

Harris described the legislation as “a down payment on future American leadership,” but stressed that “we see Japan playing a very important and important role.”

Jimmy Goodrich, vice president of global policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association, said Japan “has a lot of opportunity and significant room for future investment.”

Although Japan was once a world leader in computer chip production, its status has deteriorated over the past two decades, and the country is increasingly worried about falling behind.

Like the United States, Japan has created its own fund to support semiconductor manufacturing. Of the $4.3 billion, $3.3 billion is earmarked as subsidies for a new plant in Kumamoto, in the country’s southwest.

The venture is scheduled to begin production by the end of 2024 and is a partnership between Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Sony Group and Denso.

Among the companies participating in the meeting with Harris are Tokyo Electron, Nikon, Hitachi High Tech Group, Fujitsu Limited, Micron and others.

When Biden was in Japan earlier this year, the two countries agreed to work together on computer chips, including through a joint group focused on developing more powerful technologies.

There are concerns that if Japan is slow to act, the fruits of Biden’s initiative are likely to be snatched away by another, more willing Asian ally, South Korea.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, has repeatedly emphasized the US-Japan alliance on semiconductors, energy and other issues.

In recent meetings with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, Nishimura pledged to set up a semiconductor chip research workshop in Japan this year and expand semiconductor partnerships with other allies, including Europe and Taiwan.

Atsushi Sunami, who teaches at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo, noted that Japan’s shortcomings in the use of advanced semiconductor technology may be based on the belief that Japan should not engage in defense research.

This view stems from Japan’s role in World War II and the prevailing pacifist views both in Japan and in international circles that emerged after its defeat. But Tsunami stressed that a quick rethink was in order and the US moves, given the US-Japan alliance, could be an opportunity for Japan.

“As the US-China hegemonic competition intensifies, how Japan hopes to position itself in the fight for international standards and norms, and the strategic formation of alliances between countries as well as between companies, will be crucial,” he said. in a report earlier this year.

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