US Lawmakers Call For Stricter AI Chip Export Controls

AI artificial intelligence

Two senior US lawmakers call for further export restrictions on AI chip exports to China as domestic chip industry protests

Two senior members of the US House of Representatives have called on the Biden administration to impose tougher restrictions on artificial intelligence chips, adding to those instituted in October 2022 in an effort to hobble the development of China’s tech industry.

Mike Gallagher, the Republican chair of the House select committee on China, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Democrat ranking member of the committee, in a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo called for the government to “further strengthen” the AI chip rules, which affect exports by US firms such as AMD, Intel and Nvidia.

Last year’s rules put a cap on the interconnect speeds used to form the arrays of AI chips used in training tools such as the large language models (LLMs) that power chatbots along the lines of OpenAI’s ChatGPT or Google’s Bard.

Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi said the cap “should be lowered sufficiently to prevent clever engineering that bypasses the regulations”.

Beijing China Li Yang Unsplash
Image credit: Li Yang/Unsplash

Cloud AI ban

They also called on the administration to “closely consider” how to ensure Chinese firms could not access high-end AI processing power offered on the cloud services of firms including Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

“We urge you to even further strengthen the October 7, 2022, rules so that advanced US technology and expertise related to advanced computing and semiconductors are not used against the United States,” the lawmakers wrote.

Nvidia and Intel have both developed AI chips that can be sold in China in compliance with the restrictions.

Earlier this month the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) urged the US administration against further limits on chip exports to China, warning they could destabilise the domestic chip industry.

“Repeated steps… to impose overly broad, ambiguous, and at times unilateral restrictions risk diminishing the US semiconductor industry’s competitiveness, disrupting supply chains, causing significant market uncertainty, and prompting continued escalatory retaliation by China,” the association said in a statement.

Economic fallout

The move came as executives from companies including including Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm reportedly met with government officials in Washington DC to express similar views on China policy.

China recently placed restrictions on exports of raw materials critical to chipmaking, including gallium and germanium, in a move seen as retaliation for US policies.

The SIA called on the US and Chinese governments to “ease tensions” and for the US to “refrain from further restrictions” until it has engaged with industry and experts to “assess the impact of current and potential restrictions” and avoid further reprisals.

Research firm Preqin found last week that funding for China-focused venture capital firms had rapidly disspated in the second quarter, dropping 54.2 percent from the first quarter to $2.7 billion (£2.1bn), as investors shied away from the latest tensions.