Friday, December 8, 2023

Netherlands puts servicing of chipmaking tools in China under review

Must read

The Netherlands is considering whether to allow maintenance of Dutch-made machines that are exported to China to make advanced semiconductors, despite a ban announced this week on sending new models.

Liesje Schreinemacher, the trade minister, told journalists she had not yet decided on whether to permit servicing and replacement parts for existing machines after the clampdown on exports designed to restrict Chinese access to the most powerful chips.

The Netherlands is under US pressure to starve Beijing of the latest technology, while China has been lobbying to keep supply lines open.

Schreinemacher, speaking to reporters ahead of an EU ministerial meeting in Stockholm, said the “details still need to be worked out”.

“The Chinese have asked us before . . . to not disturb value chains much when it comes to chips. And, of course, servicing is an important part when you have a machine. We do take those concerns very seriously.”

She told the Dutch parliament on Wednesday that the government would introduce export controls on the “most advanced” machines because they could produce chips for sophisticated weapons.

That would include some of the deep (DUV) immersion lithography tools made by Dutch company ASML, which would need licences for sale overseas. The government has never allowed the export of the most capable extreme (EUV) machines to China.

ASML said it believed the new curbs would include the Twinscan NXT:2000i, which was first shipped in 2019, and later models that make high-capability chips.

Schreinemacher said she would outline full details of the regime before the summer. The deal was agreed with the US and Japan in January but the controls do not go as far as those imposed by Washington, which is trying to increase its technological lead over China.

Tokyo has not yet made an announcement on its measures.

The Dutch minister denied the US had pressured her government. “This decision was really a unilateral decision. It was not a tit-for-tat deal,” she said.

However, she called for an increased role for the EU in co-ordinating export controls. National governments are in charge of them because they are a matter of national security. She said Brussels should amend its regulations this year so member states can all choose to adopt the same restrictions.

“I think to show that we are one united European Union and show that we are a geopolitical bloc, it would be preferable if all member states would adopt this legislation,” she said, although no others can make the most advanced chipmaking machines.

The EU’s trade commissioner said on Thursday that he also favoured greater co-operation between the 27 member states. Valdis Dombrovskis said he was consulting them on an “EU approach”. 

“Russian aggression in Ukraine highlighted the risks of member states adopting national controls without much co-ordination to address their pressing national security considerations,” he said.

He said it was also necessary to ensure that member states did not undercut each other, with one sending products to a third country that were banned by another.

Schreinemacher made clear that decisions should remain with national governments. “There are Dutch real economic interests involved as well,” she said. “I believe it’s a national competence.”

Latest article