US must be 'at the table' in semiconductor field: Blinken

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a moderated conversation on building a semiconductor ecosystem, on Sept 13, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

WEST LAFAYETTE, United States - The United States should take on a greater role in the global semiconductor industry for the sake of its economy and security, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.

Addressing students and researchers at Purdue University, home to one of the US' top engineering schools, Mr Blinken stressed the importance of "getting into that tech diplomacy, making sure that the United States is at the table when decisions are being made".

He added: "We need to be there, and not only do we need to be there, we need to be able to carry the debate."

The US is leading an unprecedented effort to supercharge domestic semiconductor research and production, both to alleviate Covid-19 supply chain issues and shift away from reliance on Chinese technology.

The electronic components are essential for multiple global sectors, including the auto industry and smartphones.

The Chips and Science Act, which US President Joe Biden signed into law last month, includes around US$52 billion (S$73 billion) to promote domestic production of the microchips.

"What we do here resonates around the world," Mr Blinken said at Purdue, noting that the technology affects all sectors, including foreign policy and defence.

Despite being far from Silicon Valley, the stereotypical hub of US technological innovation, Purdue boasts a prestigious engineering school and has several laboratories specialising in semiconductor research.

US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo accompanied Mr Blinken on a tour of several research facilities at the Midwestern institution.

"The Chips Act is an investment in America," she said, adding that the US needs to go from "lab to fab", meaning fabrication.

The two senior officials had just returned from a visit on Monday to Mexico, where they invited the country to join the USt in its multibillion-dollar push to boost semiconductor manufacturing to compete with China.

Supply chain snarls due to Covid-19 have disrupted production in all sectors, including advanced technology, and also revealed the dependence of the US and other countries on China for technological components.

Mr Biden recently called semiconductor production a matter of national security. AFP

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