The planned action comes as President Joe Biden's administration has sought to thwart China's advances by targeting technologies where the United States still maintains dominance.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (not pictured) hold a virtual meeting with business leaders and state governors to discuss supply chain problems, particularly addressing semiconductor chips, on the White House campus in Washington, U.S., March 9, 2022.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (not pictured) hold a virtual meeting with business leaders and state governors to discuss supply chain problems, particularly addressing semiconductor chips, on the White House campus in Washington, U.S., March 9, 2022. (Reuters)

The Biden administration plans next month to broaden curbs on US shipments to China of semiconductors used for artificial intelligence and chipmaking tools, several people familiar with the matter said.

The Commerce Department intends to publish new regulations based on restrictions communicated in letters earlier this year to three US companies — KLA Corp, Lam Research Corp and Applied Materials Inc, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The plan for new rules has not been previously reported.

The letters, which the companies publicly acknowledged, forbade them from exporting chipmaking equipment to Chinese factories that produce advanced semiconductors with sub-14 nanometer processes unless the sellers obtain Commerce Department licenses.

The rules would also codify restrictions in Commerce Department letters sent to Nvidia Corp and Advanced Micro Devices last month instructing them to halt shipments of several artificial intelligence computing chips to China unless they obtain licenses.

Some of the sources said the regulations would likely include additional actions against China. The restrictions could also be changed and the rules published later than expected.

So-called "is informed" letters allow the Commerce Department to bypass lengthy rule-writing processes to put controls in place quickly, but the letters only apply to the companies that receive them.

Turning the letters into rules would broaden their reach and could subject other US companies producing similar technology to the restrictions. The regulations could potentially apply to companies trying to challenge Nvidia and AMD's dominance in artificial intelligence chips.

READ MORE: US blocks flow of flagship AI chips to China

'Choke point'

Intel Corp and startups like Cerebras Systems are targeting the same advanced computing markets. Intel said it is closely monitoring the situation, while Cerebras declined to comment.

One source said the rules could also impose license requirements on shipments to China of products that contain the targeted chips. Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Super Micro Computer make data center servers that contain Nvidia's A100 chip.

Dell and HPE said they were monitoring the situation, while Super Micro Computer did not respond to a request for comment.

A senior Commerce official declined to comment on the upcoming action, but said: "As a general rule, we look to codify any restrictions that are in is-informed letters with a regulatory change."

"The strategy is to choke off China and they have discovered that chips are a choke point. They can't make this stuff, they can't make the manufacturing equipment," said Jim Lewis a technology expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "That will change."

In an update on China-related measures last week, the Chamber of Commerce, a US business lobbying group, warned members of imminent restrictions on AI chips and chipmaking tools.

"We are now hearing that members should expect a series of rules or perhaps an overarching rule prior to the mid-term election to codify the guidance in recently issued (Commerce Department) 'is-informed' letters to chip equipment and chip design companies," the chamber said.

READ MORE: Why China’s big chip breakthrough has rattled the US

Source: Reuters