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Finding common ground to rebalance the global semiconductor supply chain

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Hendrik BourgeoisHendrik Bourgeois

By Hendrik Bourgeois, Vice President, European Government Affairs

In the near future, Europe will likely see one of the world’s most advanced semiconductor fabrication plants being built in the East German countryside near the city of Magdeburg. Intel’s investment there will be another step forward in our longstanding commitment to the EU, and it will also set a helpful illustration of the strong economic and political relationship between the European Union and the United States.  This is important, as the current macroeconomic and geopolitical environment suggests that this the transatlantic relationship is not frictionless.  Our CEO Pat Gelsinger visited Europe last week, exploring the planned site and meeting with government and EU leaders, customers, and colleagues throughout Europe.

We are not alone in the ambition to rebalance semiconductor supply chains and to increase manufacturing capabilities in Europe. Lawmakers in Brussels, the German and other EU member states governments, and local authorities are all working together to build a more robust European semiconductor ecosystem. More critically, though, semiconductors have also been on the work plate of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council. Nine months on, it is increasingly critical that this forum takes its objectives over the line.

Yesterday’s globalized chips industry generated reduced costs and optimized supply chains, ensuring a secure global supply of integrated circuits that has driven and enabled digitization. However, today we see that a changing geopolitical landscape has left our industry vulnerable to political and economic shocks. More than ever, we need reliable, likeminded partners, who share common values, to preserve open communication channels and work on tomorrow’s challenges.

The EU-US Trade and Technology Council precisely serves this sort of vehicle. As Presidents Biden and von der Leyen launched this initiative, the two sides found common ground on several key issues. Cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, standardization, and green tech joined semiconductors as areas where EU-US leadership could create tomorrow’s more green, more digital economy.

As can often be the case, enthusiasm waned, and reality proved more challenging than well-intended political aspirations. This reconvening of longstanding partners on both sides of the Atlantic seems now to be playing second fiddle to the issues of the day that appear more pressing or more fragile. Now, it seems that these old friends are more concerned about unilaterally protecting themselves from further shocks instead of joining hands and fighting against the headwinds. If anything can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing changes to the globe up until today, it’s that the crisis cycle is shortening, with more complex, interrelated issues impacting people, organizations, and economies at an alarming rate. It is quickly becoming impossible to go at it alone.

Next month the EU-US Trade and Technology Council will reconvene for its third session, hosted in Washington DC. Once again, circumstances and the context will have shifted. With the right mindset, though, one thing remains steadfast: the United States and the European Union must collaborate and cooperate to address common challenges, notably in the area of semiconductors. A glimpse in the rearview mirror will show that the strength of the transatlantic relation will depend on the ability of its partners to weather crises.  Pretty much like the EU, this relation has been and will continue to be built brick by brick to address concrete issues and problems, and by actions their composing members have taken in these moments.