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House to vote on bill to boost US computer chip production

WASHINGTON (AP) – House Democrats are poised to approve legislation that they say positions the United States (US) to better compete with China economically and on the global stage by strengthening the domestic semiconductor industry, shoring up strained supply chains and bolstering international alliances.

Criticising China has become a bipartisan playbook in Washington, but Republicans are panning the measure as “toothless” and short of what is needed to hold the country accountable for a range of economic and human rights actions.

The nearly 3,000-page bill includes massive investments designed to boost semiconductor manufacturing in the US. The big-ticket items include about USD52 billion in grants and subsidies to help the semiconductor industry and USD45 billion to strengthen supply chains for high-tech products.

But Democrats also tucked in other priorities that have raised GOP concerns about the bill’s cost and scope.

It includes USD8 billion for a fund that helps developing countries adjust to climate change; USD3 billion for facilities to make the US less reliant on Chinese solar components; USD4 billion to help communities with significantly higher unemployment than the national average; and USD10.5 billion for states to stockpile drugs and medical equipment.

Employees work at a production facility for Renesas Electronics in Beijing. PHOTO: AP

That’s just a sliver of the package, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said was needed to ensure “America can out-compete any nation, today and for decades to come.”

The bill gives Democrats a chance to address voter concerns about the economy at a time when a shortage of computer chips has led to higher prices for automobiles, electronics and medical devices.

Republicans, who for months have hammered Democrats over rising inflation, say the bill has little to do with winning the economic competition with China and wastes taxpayer dollars on environmental initiatives and other unnecessary programmes.

“This bill is actually just a long list of progressive dream policies that have nothing to do with China at all,” said Rep Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn.