World needs multilateral chip tech export bans to hurt China – think tank

Current arrangements may promote offshore workarounds and don't make life hard enough


Sanctions on transfer of chipmaking tech to China might be driving more offshore chipmaking, and therefore failing to achieve strategic goals.

That argument is the central theme of a policy brief titled Preserving the Chokepoints, by the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University.

The document has no beef with the aims of US sanctions, which are to keep China reliant on democratic nations for the chipmaking tech – not actual chips - it needs, while preventing the Communist nation from developing competitive product. Indeed, the document's very name argues that chokepoints are a good idea.

But the brief's authors believe that sanctions aren't effective because US chip tech companies see offshoring as a way to work around unliteral bans and keep supplying Chinese customers from their overseas facilities.

The document doesn't call for an end to offshoring – acknowledging that it is sometimes necessary to access talent, or to acquire companies.

It suggests instead a multilateral framework for chip tech bans. Existing multilateral pacts such as the Wassenaar Agreement – which prevents export of dual-use technologies – are hard to amend and have been signed by nations like Russia that may not wish to extend its scope. Nor has Wassenaar been signed by some nations that are major sources of important chipmaking tech.

The brief notes with pleasure that the US, Japan, and the Netherlands – the world's three dominant sources of chipmaking tech – have already started work on just such an agreement. The document's authors rate progress of that pact as "welcome and urgently needed."

The document asserts that the US congress should fund the CHIPS Act to ensure more semiconductor activity returns to US soil and offer many other subsidies besides. ®

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