Gov't to team up with businesses over US pressure on chipmakers

Asia's Tech News Daily

Gov't to team up with businesses over US pressure on chipmakers

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki speaks during a meeting on the external economy and security at the government complex in Seoul, Monday. Yonhap

Seoul to make final decision on CPTTP entry soon

By Baek Byung-yeul

The government will closely cooperate with domestic semiconductor manufacturers to help them cope with growing pressure from the United States with its recent demand that they disclose sensitive information, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Monday.

Hong also added the country will soon make decision on whether to apply to join the CPTTP, a mega-size free trade pact comprised of 11 Asia-Pacific countries including Japan, Australia and Canada, after “comprehensively considering the economic impact, strategic value and other issues of concern.”

Regarding Washington’s demand that Korean chip makers share classified information, Hong said, “We need to respond with three principles in mind ― corporate autonomy, government support and cooperation between Korea and the U.S.” His comments came during his presiding over a meeting on the economy and security at the Government Complex in Seoul.

Reaffirming government support for local firms, he added, “The government will strengthen communication and cooperation with domestic companies.”

The remarks follow the U.S. government’s recent call for global chipmakers such as Samsung Electronics and SK hynix to submit confidential information, including lists of their clients, by Nov. 8 in its bid to determine factors that have caused the ongoing global shortage of semiconductors.

The U.S. said the submission of such information should be voluntary, but Secretary of Commerce Gina Laimondo recently warned industry executives that her team may invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) or other available measures to force them to hand over necessary data.

The demand for information is due to the semiconductor shortfall that has caused severe production disruptions for major U.S. carmakers. The move is also apparently to indicate that Washington wants to strengthen cooperation with chipmakers to create a stable supply chain, while gaining an edge in its continuing hegemonic conflict with China.

Given Hong emphasized the administration will closely communicate with domestic companies, his remarks can be interpreted as stating that any inter-governmental actions will be taken with consideration of their position.

Mentioning the importance of developing and protecting indigenous technology at a time of a global technological hegemony competition, Hong said, “This matter is a complicated one involving various areas such as technology, security, industry and trade. In particular, securing and protecting high-tech are emerging as key issues in our external economic security.”

Regarding joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Hong elaborated “the government has been reorganizing related systems internally in preparation for applying for CPTPP membership and has conducted unofficial consultations with CPTPP members.”

The CPTPP is the renegotiated version of the previous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) promoted by the Barack Obama administration, but from which the U.S. withdrew after Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2017. After Washington’s withdrawal, 11 countries launched the CPTPP in 2018.

Korea has not officially made a decision to apply for CPTPP membership, but Hong recently told reporters that the government will decide as early as the end of this month.

“Domestic systems inevitably need improving to join the CPTPP, and over the past two years, they have been improved to some extent after cross-ministerial reviews,” Hong told reporters in Washington D.C., Oct. 14, on the sidelines of a meeting between finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 countries.

“There are several options although I think we have no choice but to decide during a ministers’ meeting on external economic factors on October 25,” he said. “We don’t have much time now. When to sign up or not must be decided on at the end of October or early November. We’re at the end of the decision making process,” he added.

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