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Corporate Leaders Push Congress to Speed Semiconductor Aid

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(Bloomberg) -- Major corporate leaders including Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook warned lawmakers that time is running out for them help spur the return of critically important semiconductor manufacturing to the U.S.

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Executives from more than 50 U.S. companies in a Wednesday letter called on congressional leaders to pass legislation that provides $52 billion in grants and incentives for domestic chip production, as well as a separate bill to encourage semiconductor design and manufacturing.

“We call on Congress to take prompt action to fund the ‘Creating Helpful Incentives for the Production of Semiconductors’ (CHIPS) for America Act and enact a strengthened version of the ‘Facilitating American-Built Semiconductors’ (FABS) Act to include an investment tax credit for both design and manufacturing,” the executives wrote in the letter, organized by the Semiconductor Industry Association.

The signatories, who also Alphabet Inc.’s Sundar Pichai, General Motors Co.’s Mary Barra, Ford Motor Co.’s Jim Farley, and Intel Corp.’s Patrick Gelsinger, stress there are “vulnerabilities” in a supply chain that produces parts for everything from computers to cars.

“Semiconductors are essential to virtually all sectors of the economy,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, demand for these critical components has outstripped supply, creating a global chip shortage and resulting in lost growth and jobs in the economy. The shortage has exposed vulnerabilities in the semiconductor supply chain and highlighted the need for increased domestic manufacturing capacity.”

SIA CEO John Neuffer said the U.S. is falling behind other countries in developing its semiconductor industry, in part because many other countries heavily subsidize their own operations. It can cost 30% to 40% more to build a semiconductor manufacturing facility in the U.S., he said.

“We’re not dealing with a level playing field here,” Neuffer said in an interview. “Until that calculus is changed, our manufacturing capabilities will continue to erode.”

Neuffer also said companies are making decisions about when and where to build based on what Congress is able to do with the legislation.

“There are decisions being made today about what’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said.

READ MORE: Intel CEO Says Chip Production Plans Need Boost From Congress

The CHIPS Act was included in a large package of legislation aimed at countering China that was passed by the Senate in June. That legislation, called the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, has since stalled in the House. In November, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an agreement to craft a version of the bill that could pass in both chambers.

So far, that has not yielded any new proposals. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that he was “hopeful we can reach agreement” on a bill that can be sent to President Joe Biden for his signature, but he didn’t give any time-frame.

A version of the FABS Act has been included in the House-passed reconciliation bill containing Biden’s social-spending agenda, but the SIA is pushing for the legislation to also cover expenses related to semiconductor design.

EARLIER: Schumer Drops Effort to Attach China Bill to Pentagon Measure

“We ask you to prioritize actions to help strengthen the U.S. semiconductor ecosystem,” the CEOs said. “The Senate has already approved funding for CHIPS on a bipartisan basis. The House must now move forward to approve the funding. The chip shortage poses risks to our entire economy and time is of the essence.”

Signatories to the letter included executives of prominent overseas companies with operations in the U.S., such as leading chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.

(Adds reference to foreign signatories to letter in final paragraph.)

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