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TSMC Hires Ex-Intel Lobbyist to Deal With U.S.-China Tensions

Debby Wu

(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., a major chipmaker to Apple Inc. and Huawei Technologies Co., has recruited rival Intel Corp.’s former top lobbyist Peter Cleveland to spearhead an unprecedented effort in Washington to mitigate impact from U.S.-Chinese trade tensions.

The world’s biggest contract chipmaker joins 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 over 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 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 Washington blacklisted and views as a national security threat.

Read more: TSMC to Keep Supplying Huawei, Quashes Talk of U.S. Pressure

“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, adding Cleveland is based in Washington D.C.

While there have been TSMC staffers tasked with similar responsibilities previously, Cleveland’s arrival coalesces 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 from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. to Nvidia Corp. rely on it for the production of their most advanced chips.

It joins a wave of companies that in recent months have begun to play a more active role in lobbying Washington. Huawei spent a company-record $1.8 million on federal lobbying in the past quarter as it struggled against 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 operations.

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.

Read more: Trump’s Blacklisting of Huawei Is Failing to Halt Its Growth

--With assistance from Ian King and Vlad Savov.

To contact the reporter on this story: Debby Wu in Taipei at dwu278@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Colum Murphy

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