competitors and collaborators sen mark warner and european commissioner hold first chips act chat

Competitors and collaborators: Warner, European commissioner hold first CHIPS Act chat

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Mark Warner

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and European Commissioner Thierry Breton sat down for a chat via modern technology Wednesday morning to discuss the U.S. passing of the CHIPS Act.

The Creating Helping Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act will strengthen American research, development and production of semiconductors. In 2022, the U.S. produces only 12 percent of the world’s chips. In 1990, 37 percent of semiconductors were produced in the U.S.

Warner said that before serving as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006, he was in telecommunications.

“I saw in the development of 5G technology something that was shocking,” Warner said. China led wireless technology, not the U.S. “I was already concerned with the west’s involvement in technology.”

With that revelation, Warner began supporting the CHIPS Act, and now seeks to ally with next-generation wireless access. He said getting the U.S. involved again in manufacturing semiconductors with CHIPS was “an easy argument to make.” Manufacturing more semiconductors in the U.S. would give Americans “more control over our supply chain,” which was the genesis for CHIPS, a journey that began two years ago.

France’s Breton said the CHIPS Act will “provide what is needed for all of our industry.”

He said he understands as Warner does the importance of semiconductors in today’s technological world.

“We need to continue. We need to continue to enhance this,” Breton said.

Semiconductor manufacturing is important for securing the world’s supply chain.

U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently visited Taiwan, just as relations between Taiwan and China have come into question. Warner said he agrees with the agreement between the U.S. and the European Parliament.

“I think a 40 percent manufacturing goal should be the minimum. I think we could actually go larger,” Warner said.

Also important in the discussion, according to Warner, is securing tool manufacturers in the supply chain.

“As long as we can make some of the most cutting-edge tools,” Warner said. “I think that’s a choke point [for democracy].”

The CHIPS for America Act will be a 21st Century industrial policy.

“We’re both competitors and collaborators in this field,” Warner said of the U.S. He added that investment is also necessary in artificial intelligence.

Warner said that the timing of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan “raised the stakes,” and the goal of a cease fire is for China to take action on Taiwan. If Taiwan manufacturing were cute off from the world’s supply chain, it would create an “economic catastrophe.”

“My concern is with the Communist Party. It is not with the Chinese people,” Warner said of China leading semiconductor manufacturing in the world. He said that billions of dollars in intelligence property has been stolen by the Communist Party, and some Chinese companies have a loyalty to the party, which is “the challenge that China presents” to the world.

Years ago, Warner said that his stance on China was to invite them to the table, but now he hesitates.

“I think history has shown otherwise,” Warner said.

With the passing of the CHIPS Act for America, officials have heard that China claims it will not be able to fix problems as swiftly, and will create new companies to manufacture semiconductors and cut off that supply to the rest of the world.

“That concerns me a great deal,” Warner said.

He added that when the U.S. and Europe discuss semiconductor manufacturing and new technology, they need to find new ways to talk about the topics. “We almost need to figure out the right language,” Warner said. Aspects of the discussion have changed. For example, when officials or the media talk about the Western world, Africa is not included.

“I do think the language as we talk about an alliance of countries that will work on technology [needs to change],” Warner said. Technology is “one of the major issues of our time.”

Another important issue is access to raw materials. Warner said that the COVID-19 pandemic “woke us up to the need for earth minerals,” and not just about mining but where and when to process materials. “We can’t turn a blind eye [to the environmental impact of mining].”

“Let’s do what has to be done,” Breton said. If the U.S. and Europe do not think ahead, their dependencies will eventually be used against them.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.