Jan 14, 2020 05:59 AM

TSMC Hires Ex-Intel Lobbyist in Response to U.S.-China Tensions

Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) --Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., a major chipmaker for Apple Inc. and Huawei Technologies Co., hired rival Intel Corp.’s former top lobbyist Peter Cleveland to spearhead efforts in Washington to mitigate the impact of U.S.-Chinese trade tensions.

The world’s biggest contract chipmaker joined a growing number of companies with Chinese business interests that are stepping up U.S. lobbying, aiming to gauge and lessen the fallout from Washington’s ongoing dispute with Beijing. The Taiwanese company indicated in July it was considering starting government relations operations in the U.S.

Cleveland, who headed Intel’s lobbying effort for more than a decade, updated his LinkedIn profile this month to reflect new responsibilities including representing TSMC on policy, legislative and regulatory matters. There’s been speculation that U.S. sanctions may affect TSMC’s shipments to Huawei. But the Taiwanese chipmaker has publicly quashed talk of U.S. pressure for it to stop supplying its No. 2 customer, which the Trump administration blacklisted and views as a national security threat.

“Peter Cleveland is helping TSMC enhance communications with stakeholders including government officials at a global level,” TSMC spokeswoman Nina Kao told Bloomberg News by phone. Cleveland is based in Washington, D.C.

While some TSMC staffers have had with similar responsibilities, Cleveland’s arrival consolidates the effort under one independent position, according to Kao. TSMC plays an indispensable role in the global semiconductor industry, commanding more than 50% of the global foundry market. U.S. and Chinese tech companies including Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Nvidia Corp. rely on it for the production of their most advanced chips.

A wave of companies in recent months have begun to play a more active role in lobbying in the American capital. Huawei spent a company-record $1.8 million on federal lobbying in the past quarter as it resisted U.S. sanctions that deprived it of key components or software from American suppliers like Intel, Xilinx Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. TikTok, the popular music-video app owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Inc., is also expanding its U.S. lobbying.

Huawei is TSMC’s largest customer after Apple, according to Bloomberg supply chain data, contributing roughly 10% of the chipmaker’s revenue. Cleveland managed 200 attorneys and policy professionals while at Intel, and his areas of expertise include antitrust reviews, 5G spectrum allocations and global IP enforcement and protection, according to his LinkedIn profile. Before Intel, he served as California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s chief of staff.

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