Trump’s Trade War With China Will Drive Up GPU Prices Again
The US and China are currently engaged in an escalating trade war that’s going to start having an impact on semiconductor parts and PC components in the near future. Anyone planning to make purchases may wish to do so sooner rather than later. On September 24, the following goods will be hit with a 10 percent tariff:
Motherboards, graphics cards, storage devices (both SSD and HDD), mice, keyboards, power supplies, CPU coolers, heatsinks, LED fans, chassis, and wireless routers. (The full list is available from the USTR.gov website.)
If the trade war between China and the United States isn’t resolved by January 1, the tariff rates will increase to 25 percent. Items like Apple watches and wigs have managed to win exemptions for their products, but, as Jon Peddie writes, “Add-in board suppliers evidently didn’t contribute enough or hire the right lobbyists.”
Many PC component companies are racing to try and move manufacturing to Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, or India to reduce tariff exposure, Legit Reviews notes, but any serious shift of manufacturing takes a non-trivial amount of time. Motherboards and video cards may not be as complex to fab as a CPU or memory, but it’s still not a particularly quick process to ramp up component manufacturing in a new facility.
Thinking about the number of components in a computer is actually an excellent way to model the complexity of tariffs and international trade. If you buy a Dell or HP system, you’re buying from an American manufacturer — but the components in that system have come from dozens of different companies. The optical drive might be manufactured in Taiwan, the RAM in Korea, NAND from China, critical hard drive components from Thailand, and your GPU from…well, that’s actually an interesting story in its own right.
Not all GPU manufacturers are from the same country — and that’s going to play into how GPU sales move as well. But it also looks as though the tariffs are designed to impact the specific components that are manufactured in China rather than just targeting the company as a whole — that’s the only way to explain why Gigabyte, which is officially a Taiwanese company, would be impacted by the US-China tariffs. Presumably, companies like Zotac, HIS, and Sapphire, which are headquartered in Hong Kong, are going to be impacted regardless, but the hit to other firms could depend on where their production facilities are located. Of course, this will also shift the overall market by “encouraging” OEMs to buy from suppliers whose products aren’t impacted by the tariffs — except long-term contracts could also lock in some of these products whether they’re the cheapest option or not.
The long and short of it is this: Component prices are going to increase, though the impacts may not land exactly where you expect them to, and some companies may be able to dodge the negative effect of the tariffs more easily than others. These price increases could land particularly hard on at least some of Nvidia’s RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti board partners and send the price of those cards leaping even further than Nvidia’s deliberate price increases.