In a move that could result in higher prices for some memory chips, the US Department of Commerce has taken steps to raise anti-dumping tariffs on DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) chips produced in Taiwan. The move is in response to a petition, filed last year, by Micron Technologies.

The Commerce Department's International Trade Association (ITA) issued a final determination Tuesday, recommending a tariff increase to 21.35 per cent for most Taiwanese DRAM chip manufacturers, according to a fact sheet released by the ITA.

Two chip makers listed in the ITA's final determination, Etron Technology and Mosel-Vitelic, will be slapped with even higher tariffs of 69 per cent and 35.58 per cent, respectively, the fact sheet said. The tariff on chips made by Nanya Technology would increase to 14.18 per cent and the tariff on Vanguard International Semiconductor DRAM chips would increase to 8.21 per cent. The fact sheet did not provide current tariff percentages.

The recommendations will go into effect if the International Trade Commission (ITC) agrees with the determination, the ITA said. The ITC will have 45 days to issue a ruling from the day it receives final determination notification from ITA.

The ITA's final determination follows the association's investigation into allegations that the Taiwanese DRAM processor manufacturers were "dumping" their products on the US market, selling their goods for less than they sell for in Taiwan, or for less than the cost of making them.

US anti-dumping laws, which spell out the terms under which punitive tariffs can be implemented, are designed to protect US businesses from unfair competition - resulting from unfair pricing by non-US companies, and unfair subsidies those companies receive from their governments.

Last month, Micron denied accusations that it was dumping its DRAM processors in Taiwan. The company said its export practices had not caused any injury to Taiwanese chipmakers, and said the allegations were clearly in retaliation for its petition with the ITA, regarding the rival Taiwanese vendors. A Micron spokesperson could not be reached for comment today.

Taiwanese chipmakers shipped nearly 118 million semiconductors valued at $427 million to the US market in 1997, according to the ITA. That increased to 241 million chips, valued at nearly $700 million in 1998.