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  1. Technology
April 12, 1987


By CBR Staff Writer

The US administration, and the US electronics industry, are finding that it is nave to believe that you can wage simplistic economic war on the Japanese by tying them down to unwelcome restrictions on their sales of semiconductors, and expect to come away unscathed. The innocents in Washington completely failed to take on board the fact that Japan is already in a virtual monopoly position on commodity memory chips, and that means that Tokyo can do enormous harm to US chip users by quite innocent vigorous implementation of the letter of the trade agreement. If Japanese manufacturers are believed to be dumping chips, it is clearly necessary to keep a much closer watch on exports than hitherto, and so the Japanese government has lowered the size of individual consignment on which formal export approval must be granted to 50,000 from 1m. The dollar has slumped to a pitiful level against Japan’s quaint toytown currency, but even so, 50,000 is only about $350, at current prices a mere 150 256K memory chips or so. And, not too surprisingly, while all that paperwork has to be processed, chips bound for the US are piling up at airport warehouses – and even Texas Instruments, which makes its memory chips mainly in Japan, is finding it well-nigh impossible to get the things out. It is also embarrassed and disgruntled to find officials from the Ministry of International Trade & Industry getting very heavy with it and insisting that it implement the same production cuts at its Japanese plants that the locals have had imposed on them. And now the ineffable Semiconductor Industry Association, which caused all the trouble in the first place by demanding action against the Japanese, is moaning that its members can’t get the chips they have ordered. Perhaps IBM could be persuaded to wind up its output of memory chips and divert any of the surplus onto the merchant semiconductor market in the US national interest…

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