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Commerce Updates Chip-Export Restrictions

The Biden administration announced broad updates to restrictions on U.S. exports of advanced computing and semiconductor-making equipment to China, according to Reuters (subscription).

What’s going on: “The measures are designed to prevent China from acquiring the cutting-edge chips needed to develop AI technologies such as large language models, which power applications such as ChatGPT but that U.S. officials say also have military uses that present a national security threat.”

  • The updated interim final rules announced on Oct. 17 will go into effect Nov. 17 and will “reinforce the October 7, 2022, controls to restrict [China]’s ability to both purchase and manufacture certain high-end chips critical for military advantage,” according to a press release from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.

Why it matters: “These controls were strategically crafted to address, among other concerns, [China]’s efforts to obtain semiconductor manufacturing equipment essential to producing advanced integrated circuits needed for the next generation of advanced weapon systems” and other technologies that “present U.S. national security concerns,” according to the BIS.

  • In an effort to control a wider range of chips, Tuesday’s rules will focus on computing power only and will require companies to notify the U.S. government when they sell chips that come in just under restriction limits.

“Chiplets”: The rules also seek to address “chiplets,” in which small portions of a chip are spliced to make a full chip.

  • “Analysts had expressed concern that Chinese firms could use such technology to acquire chiplets that stayed within the legal limits but that could later be assembled in secret into a larger chip that would break the rules,” according to Reuters.

​​​​​​​ The last word: “By imposing stringent license requirements, we ensure that those seeking to obtain powerful advanced chips and chip manufacturing equipment will not use these technologies to undermine U.S. national security,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration Thea D. Rozman Kendler.

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