An image showing a stack of Japan-made RAM computer memory chips, Frankfurt, Germany, 17 March 2011. EPA FILE/MAURITZ ANTIN

Japan weighs China’s new controls on chip materials

Tokyo, July 4 (EFE).- The Japanese government on Tuesday was analyzing China’s decision to control exports of gallium and germanium, key metals for the electronics industry, and has not ruled out countermeasures.

Now-Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 3, 2016. EFE FILE/Kimimasa Mayama
Now-Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 3, 2016. EFE FILE/Kimimasa Mayama

On Monday night, Beijing announced exporters would require a license from the commerce ministry to export these rare earth materials to foreign companies, which in practice will mean that the government will have absolute control over who will be recipients.

Gallium and germanium are two niche metals that have a small share of the market, but which are used in the manufacturing of semiconductors, solar panels, vehicle components, and communications, space and defense equipment.

China has announced new controls on the export of these metals for reasons of national security and in suspected retaliation for restrictions on semiconductor exports to China by various powers, including the United States and Japan.

Japan’s government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said on Tuesday that Tokyo is analyzing the potential impact of Beijing’s measure on Japan.

“The intention of the matter and the operational policy of China will be confirmed by us, and the WTO (World Trade Organization) rules will need to be complied with,” Matsuno said at a press conference, adding that “if there are any unfair matters taken we are going to take actions based on rules.”

Japanese companies import large amounts of gallium and germanium from China, the world’s largest exporter of gallium and germanium. Although they are substitutable metals and obtainable in other territories, the abundance in the country and their low prices have made it the favorite source

Tokyo carried out a tightening of its export controls on advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment on June 23, which among other things affects Beijing, but the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Yasutoshi Nishumura, ruled out that the Chinese decision is a retaliation for that. EFE