WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) – The US Commerce Department is to place trade curbs on Chinese memory chip maker Changxin Memory Technologies (CXMT) after Beijing last week banned the sale of some chips by US-based Micron Technology Inc (MU .O) , the chair of the US House of Representatives committee on China said on Tuesday.
China’s cyberspace regulator’s crackdown against Micron is the latest in a widening trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies. China’s move drew tough remarks from key lawmakers and the White House.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday that the Chinese announcement on Micron was “not based on fact.”
The White House said the Commerce Department had “directly engaged” China over Micron, a maker of memory chips essential for products ranging from cell phones to data center servers.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, also said Tuesday that he is talking to the broader business community and allies about the issue.
A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A representative for CXMT could not immediately be reached for comment.
A Commerce Department spokesman declined to comment.
Representative Mike Gallagher, an influential lawmaker whose select committee on China pressed the Biden administration to take a tougher stance on China, was the only lawmaker so far to call for retaliatory action.
“The US must make clear to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) that it will not tolerate economic coercion against its companies or allies,” Gallagher said in a statement. “The Commerce Department should immediately add ChangXin Memory Technologies to the entity list and ensure that no US technology, regardless of the details, goes to CXMT, YMTC, or other PRC companies operating in this industry.”
CXMT is China’s leading maker of DRAM memory chips and the domestic competitor likely to benefit if Micron is barred from China’s massive chip market.
YMTC, or Yangtze Memory Technologies Corp, is a Chinese chipmaker that was placed on the entity list in December 2022.
Gallagher also said the Commerce Department should ensure that “no US export licenses are granted to foreign semiconductor memory companies operating in (China) that are used to backfill Micron, and our allies in South Korea, who have experienced exactly this type of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) economic coercion in recent years, must also act to prevent backfilling,” Gallagher said.
Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd ( 005930.KS ) and SK Hynix ( 000660.KS ), which both operate memory chip factories in China, and other non-Chinese companies have been spared the brunt of trade controls. US exports of chip-making equipment were imposed in October, but they operate under exemptions from US rules that could expire or be revoked.
Samsung and SK Hynix did not immediately return requests for comment.
Analysts believe CXMT’s chips are two to three generations behind industry leaders Micron, Samsung and SK Hynix.
Gallagher’s call came weeks after US makers of chip-making equipment said they had received clarification from US export control authorities that would allow them to ship more tools. in China than previously expected.
Lam Research Corp ( LRCX.O ), the leading maker of tools for manufacturing memory chips, told investors the clarification could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional sales from China.
The clarification from the Commerce Department concerns how memory chip features are measured for purposes of applying export control rules.
How chips are measured can vary with what tools and materials are used to make them and how they are designed, said Dan Hutcheson, vice chair of TechInsights Inc, which produces research reports on semiconductor industry.
Even among those who make and buy memory chips, “it tends to be a big debate,” Hutcheson said.
Reporting by Chris Sanders and Rami Ayyub Editing by Chris Reese
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