U.S. denies blocking chip sales to Middle East

Illustration picture of semiconductor chips

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) - The Biden administration "has not blocked chip sales to the Middle East," a U.S. Department of Commerce spokesperson said on Thursday, after disclosures that Washington had expanded export license requirements for Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices artificial-intelligence chips.

Nvidia revealed the new rules in a regulatory filing earlier this week. A person familiar with the matter confirmed on Wednesday that AMD is affected by the change.

The Commerce Department declined to comment on whether it had imposed new requirements on specific U.S. companies. Neither Nvidia nor AMD immediately returned requests for comment on Thursday.

The new rules would require Nvidia to seek licenses before selling its flagship chips to some Middle Eastern countries, the filing said. Neither Nvidia nor AMD have disclosed whether they have applied for such licenses and whether they have been approved or denied.

U.S. officials usually impose export controls for national security reasons. A similar move announced last year signaled an escalation of the U.S. crackdown on China's technological capabilities, but it was not immediately clear what risks were posed by exports to the Middle East.

Many of the U.S. curbs on technology exports to China amount to a blanket denial of all licenses.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Chang)