The Netherlands will curb the export of microchip technology for “security” reasons, the Dutch government announced on Wednesday, following pressure from the United States.
“The government has come to the conclusion that it is necessary for (inter)national security to extend the existing export control of specific semiconductor production equipment,” Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher said in a letter to parliament.
The Netherlands is Europe’s leader in the machinery used to make chips - the electronic components that are essential to the functioning of smartphones, connected cars but also military equipment.
The US has been pushing for export restrictions after taking such a decision itself last year.
The measure could affect Dutch group ASML
The Dutch government’s announcement comes less than two months after Prime Minister Mark Rutte and President Joe Biden had a meeting in Washington, at which the issue was discussed.
The export restrictions are expected to affect the Dutch group ASML, Europe’s largest manufacturer of machines that make semiconductors.
The Dutch government did not mention the company directly but said the measures would affect DUV (Deep Ultraviolet) machines, which are a specialty of the ASML group.
The aim of extending the controls is to prevent military use and to protect the Netherlands’ unique, leading position in such technologies, the government said.
ASML also manufactures extreme ultraviolet (EUV) machines that enable even more sophisticated computer chips to be made. These machines are already listed in a multilateral agreement signed by some 40 countries, including the US and the Netherlands, governing export controls on civil-military dual-use technologies.
Need for caution in the chip war - ASML
At its annual results in January, the group had urged governments to be “cautious” in the chip war between China and the US. “We need to be careful that well-intentioned measures do not cause unfortunate consequences,” chief executive Peter Wennink had said.
ASML had reported a slight drop in net profits in 2022 to €5.6bn and a jump in revenue to €21.2bn.
In the name of national security, Washington has stepped up sanctions in recent months against Chinese chipmakers, now hindered from gaining access to US technology.
China accused the US on Tuesday of stoking tensions between the two powers and warned of the risk of “conflict” and “confrontation.”