The Netherlands has unveiled plans to restrict exports of key chip-making tools. This is an important step in the ongoing US effort to limit China’s access to high-performance semiconductors, reports Financial Times. The deal, which is expected to include control of critical chip manufacturing technologies from Dutch multinational ASML, was reached with the US in January, but only made public this week when Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade Liesje Schreinemacher sent a letter to the parliament describing the new measures.
ASML is a key player in the global chip supply chain, producing the tools companies like TSMC need to produce advanced semiconductors. Without its equipment, any chip maker in China would face significant challenges. This is a key issue for the US, which is trying to limit China’s ability to develop advanced military technologies such as hypersonic missiles. In October of last year, the US announced large-scale restrictions on the sale of its own microcircuits.
“Because the Netherlands considers it necessary on national security grounds to get this technology into oversight with the greatest of speed, the Cabinet will introduce a national control list,” Schreinemacher’s letter said, reports Reuters. A new law introducing new controls is expected to be passed by the summer.
Reuters notes that the letter did not directly name China or directly mention ASML, a world leader in advanced chip manufacturing equipment. But the letter mentions deep ultraviolet lithography (DUV) systems that ASML can still sell to customers in China. Companies are expected to need licenses to export this technology once the restrictions are in place.
ASML reportedly does not expect the restrictions to affect previously announced financial forecasts. After all, in addition to UV lithography tools, ASML also produces more advanced tools for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, which the company has been banned from selling to China since 2019. Reuters notes that it is unclear whether ASML will be able to service the machines previously sold to China.
Like the Netherlands, the US also agreed with Japan to introduce similar export restrictions. Japan has yet to announce anything publicly, but Reuters says an update could come as early as this week.
A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that his country opposes these plans.
“We are firmly opposed to the Netherlands’ usage of administrative means to intervene and limit normal economic and trade exchanges between Chinese and Dutch companies,” Mao Ning said during a media briefing in comments for Reuters.