Armed with a new law that boosts support for computer chip manufacturing, US Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday was seeking new investments and partnerships as she sat down with Japanese technology executives.
Harris was meeting with the chief executive officers on her last full day in Tokyo, a reflection of the US administration’s focus on boosting semiconductor manufacturing and expanding the supply chain for critical materials.
With China investing in computer chips of its own, the US is working to solidify its technology relationships with Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.
Legislation signed by US President Joe Biden — known as the CHIPS and Science Act — includes US$52 billion for grants and incentives for semiconductor companies, plus a 25 percent tax credit when they invest in facilities in the US.
There is also about US$200 billion over the next decade to support research programs.
“There’s no one country or company that can do everything on its own,” said Jimmy Goodrich, vice president for global policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association.
When it comes to Japan, “there’s a big opportunity and significant space for future investment,” Goodrich said.
The companies participating in the meeting with Harris included Tokyo Electron, Nikon, Hitachi High Tech Group, Fujitsu Limited, Micron and others.
When Biden was in Japan earlier this year, the two nations agreed to work together on computer chips, including through a joint group focused on developing more powerful technologies.
There are worries that if Japan is slow to act, the fruits of the Biden initiative might be snatched up by South Korea.
Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura has repeatedly said that the alliance on semiconductors is a vital cog in US-Japan ties.
In meetings with US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel, Nishimura has promised to set up a facility for semiconductor chips research in Japan this year, and expand the partnership on semiconductors with other allies, including Taiwan and Europe.
Atsushi Sunami, who teaches at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, said that the drawbacks to Japan tackling advanced semiconductor technology might be rooted in the view that Japan should not get involved in defense studies.
Quick rethinking was in order and the moves by Washington could be an opportunity for Japan, Sunami said.
“As the US-China hegemonic competition escalates, how Japan hopes to position itself in the jockeying for international standards and rulemaking, and the strategic formation of alliances among nations, as well as among companies, will be critically meaningful,” he said in a report earlier this year.
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