The U.S. Department of Commerce on Friday added 31 companies from China to its Unverified List (UVL), a step that precedes the addition to the Entity List. Among the entities added to the UVL is Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. and various companies involved in Chinese semiconductor and adjacent high-tech industries. Inclusion to the UVL adds roadblocks for companies to acquire technologies from the U.S.
The U.S. DoC's UVL includes entities whose bona fides (end users) could not be identified "satisfactorily for reasons outside the U.S. Government's control." Inclusion to the UVL means that U.S. suppliers with ties to such companies will have to conduct additional due diligence to verify end users of final products before shipping their tools to entities from the list, reports Reuters. This might potentially mean they will have to apply for additional licenses. Meanwhile, unlike inclusion to the DoC's Entity List, inclusion into the UVL does not mean that U.S. companies will have to get special export licenses for all the goods they ship to the listed companies.
The inclusion of YMTC into the UVL means that U.S.-based producers of chipmaking tools and software must perform additional checks and notify the U.S. government before shipping their equipment to the 3D NAND memory maker. This does not completely cut off YMTC from new fab tools but makes it harder for the company to procure equipment from companies like Applied Materials, KLA, or Lam Research. Furthermore, some licenses will likely not be granted.
"The use of license exceptions for exports, reexports, and transfers (in-country) involving a party or parties to the transaction who are listed on the UVL is suspended," a statement of the DoC reads. "Additionally, […] there is a requirement for exporters, re-exporters, and transferors to obtain (and maintain a record of) a UVL statement from a party or parties to the transaction who are listed on the UVL before proceeding with exports, reexports, and transfers (in-country) to such persons, when the exports, reexports and transfers (in-country) are not subject to a license requirement. Finally, […] Electronic Export Information (EEI) must be filed in the Automated Export System (AES) for all exports of tangible items subject to the EAR when a party or parties to the transaction is/are listed on the UVL."
U.S. officials have been talking about restricting YMTC's access to technologies with American origins for weeks now, but the government has not yet blacklisted the company.
The Biden administration is also considering toughening up access of China-based semiconductor companies to leading-edge equipment used to make chips on 14nm/16nm-class production technologies. This will not disrupt supplies of advanced tools to Samsung and SK Hynix that make 3D NAND and DRAM chips in China, according to a Reuters report, but will substantially affect the competitive positions of companies like Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. or Yangtze Memory.
The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has yet to assess how the new export control rules affect U.S.-based chipmaking tools companies.
"We are assessing the impact of the new export controls on the U.S. semiconductor industry and working with our member companies and the U.S. government to ensure compliance," a statement by the SIA reads. "We understand the goal of ensuring national security and urge the U.S. government to implement the rules in a targeted way — and in collaboration with international partners — to help level the playing field and mitigate unintended harm to U.S. innovation."