SEMI wins request for etch equipment export control review

September 9, 2014. SEMI announced that it has successfully appealed to the U.S. government to review the validity of current export controls on semiconductor etch equipment.  Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the launch of the first Foreign Availability Assessment in more than 20 years. The assessment is in response to SEMI’s formal petition asserting that etch equipment comparable to the controlled specification is available from Chinese sources.

“SEMI is pleased to have facilitated a constructive dialog with international industry participants and the U.S. government in order to pursue updated and appropriate levels of export control,” said Jonathan Davis, SEMI global vice president of advocacy. “The decontrol of semiconductor etch technology is a necessary recognition of modern commercial realities and will contribute to a level field of competition.”

Anistropic plasma dry etching equipment designed or optimized to produce critical dimensions of 65 nm or less within specific uniformity capabilities is controlled by the Department of Commerce for national security reasons.  Considered a “dual-use” technology, advanced etch equipment can be used for both civil and military applications. While the technology can be used to produce devices for military application, the vast majority of commercial etch technology is used by semiconductor manufacturers that produce ICs and other devices for common computing, communications, and consumer electronics products.

“Compliance with licensing protocols can be time-consuming and expensive,” said Davis. SEMI members’ global customers potentially view delays and unpredictability associated with licensing processes as a negative factor in purchasing decisions.”

Proving the existence of an indigenous manufacturing capability or source would render U.S. controls baseless and allow U.S. producers more equal access to foreign markets. The process of invalidating a controlled item due to foreign availability is defined in the Export Administration Act of 1979 and amended Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is tasked with conducting the assessment and providing a report to the Secretary of Commerce. Having found sufficient merit in the SEMI claim, BIS is initiating the assessment and soliciting public comments.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has 120 days after the formal notice to complete a review of foreign production capacity within China and deliver a report to the Secretary detailing their findings.

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