Memo to Congress: It’s Time to Finalize the Competitiveness Bill (and Include Critical Trade Tools)

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Jun 29 2022 |
Renderings of a planned Intel semiconductor facility in Ohio. Photo by Intel

The world isn’t waiting to invest in their industries, but Congress is — and it could end up costing the United States, big time.

Back in January, Intel announced plans to build a massive semiconductor production facility in Ohio, a landmark $20 million investment that would include at least two new factories to make desperately needed computer chips.

One of the reasons for Intel’s big investment was that Congress appeared on the precipice of passing bipartisan competitiveness legislation that would include funding for semiconductor production and other critical manufacturing. The Senate version of the bill, called the United States Innovation and Competition Act, already passed in 2021. The House version, known as the America COMPETES Act, would go on to pass in February.

Things were looking so good, in fact, that President Biden announced in his State of the Union address that Intel was “ready to increase their investment from $20 billion to $100 billion” once the final competitiveness package made it to his desk for signature.

But the legislation, now called the Bipartisan Innovation Act, remains stuck in conference, and time is running out to get things done before the August recess. And companies like Intel are growing impatient.

Last week, the company delayed the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ohio facility, citing failure to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act. Then on Tuesday, CEO Pat Gelsinger warned that Intel is prepared to expand semiconductor production in Europe if the U.S. fails to get a move on.

“The rest of the world is moving rapidly despite the inability of Congress to get this finished,” he said.

There’s a lot happening in the world right now, so it’s easy to see why Members of Congress may be a little distracted. But Congress needs to get its act together and finish work on this bill, which has bipartisan support and which will begin to benefit the country immediately.

Oh, and one more thing: Congress needs to make sure the final bill includes legislation called the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0, which will give America’s workers and manufacturers the trade tools they need to take on China’s predatory trade practices.

AAM President Scott Paul said today:

“The United States has faced crisis after crisis over the past three years because of our over reliance on imports for the things we need. There’s bipartisan consensus that we must invest to rebuild supply chains and strengthen domestic manufacturing, especially for critical products like semiconductors. 

“But that’s just the first step. 

“America’s factory workers and manufacturers need modern tools to take on the predatory trade practices of foreign governments. Without them, the CCP and others will utilize the trade cheating playbook of the past two decades to drive American producers out of business, offshore production, and further weaken our national and economic security.  

“We can already see the consequences of inaction. First Solar decided against building a factory in the United States due to uncertainty about investment and a failure to enforce our trade laws. Some major semiconductor manufacturers are rethinking their new American investments because of these legislative delays. If the U.S. doesn’t step up here, other countries will. 

“If we are truly serious about winning the competition for the 21st century, Congress must pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act with inclusion of the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0. If the final competitiveness package doesn’t include these commonsense trade components, the United States will put all our new investments and hard work in danger. Let’s get the job done, and let’s do it right.”

Here’s what it comes down to: The world needs more computer chips, and it needs them like, yesterday. These semiconductor factories are going to be built, and there are companies ready and willing to build them in the United States. More than 100 CEOs wrote to Congress earlier this month to point that out, and urge Members to finalize this legislation.

But we’re in a global competition, and right now, competitors like Europe and China are investing heavily in their own industries. If we don’t act now, we’re going to miss out on a historic opportunity.

Let’s get this critical legislation across the finish line: Tell your Members of Congress to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act and add their name as a sponsor to the Leveling the Playing Field Act 2.0.